Avian Demography Unit
Department of Statistical Sciences
University of Cape Town
ADU home     UCT Home page

African Penguin painting
Artist: Neville Hickman
Faces of need


2000 houses for Dyer Island Nature Reserve

Les Underhill

Dyer Island, near Gansbaai, Western Cape. This is an investment opportunity not to be missed. On Friday night, 24 March 2006, a development of 2000 houses was launched on the Dyer Island Nature Reserve, one of the most sensitive of the Important Bird Areas in South Africa. By the night of the launch 200 (10%) of the houses had already been sold. This development has the approval of Cape Nature.

Artificial penguin nest burrow
Photo Wilfred Chivell
Penguins on Dyer Island nest under anything that provides shelter from the sun and the gulls

The houses are for penguins. Because of guano scraping in the past, down to bedrock, most of Dyer Island's penguins are forced to nest on the surface, instead of in burrows. The most highly prized sites on the island are below bushes, and under planks of drift wood. Anything that provides shelter is preferred to an open nest. At surface nests, adults have to be continuously on guard against marauding Kelp Gulls, which sneak in and steal the offspring if the penguin's alertness is disturbed. Surface-nesting penguins are also vulnerable to overheating; if the penguin gets dangerously hot it simply deserts the eggs and goes into the sea to cool off. The gulls immediately take the eggs. Experiments have found the optimal design for the penguin nest boxes and newly installed nest boxes are rapidly occupied by penguins.

Fibre glass burrows
Photo Wilfred Chivell
The artificial nest burrows are made of fibre glass. They are dug into the ground so that they will not become 2000 ugly igloos littering the island. Because they are covered with soil, they do no overheat, so the penguins remain comfortable inside them. They have no bottoms, so rainwater can drain away, as in a natural burrow

The launch of the development coincided with the launch of the Dyer Island Conservation Trust. The housing development is the first "Faces of Need" project of the trust: to raise enough money to install 2000 specially designed artificial burrows for penguins on the isand. Sponsorship is R350 per nest. The banking details are: Dyer Island Conservation Trust, First National Bank Hermanus, Branch code 200412, Current account 621 0020 3497. Your support of this venture will be greatly appreciated.

Monitoring penguin nests
Photo Wilfred Chivell
PhD student Lauren Waller (CapeNature) and supervisor Les Underhill (ADU/UCT) design the project to monitor breeding success in the first suburb of 20 penguin houses on Dyer Island

The founder of the trust is Wilfred Chivell, from whom more details can be obtained. The remaining trustees are Professor Rob Crawford, Ms Angelika Kamp, Mr Newi Makhado and Professor Les Underhill. The trust has several objectives. The most important is the conservation, rehabilitation and protection of the natural environment, including both flora and fauna, in and around Dyer Island. The trust is also concerned about the care of wild animals, especially oiled penguins. The trust will promote educational and training programmes relating to environmental awareness, and greening and clean-up projects. It will also support any research which is related to or supports these objectives. The trust can even provide funds, assets and other resources for similar projects in related areas, for example, at other offshore islands of the Western Cape. The 2000-house development for Dyer Island's penguins is the first of many planned thrusts of the Dyer Island Conservation Trust, to be undertaken in terms of the "Faces of Need" banner.

There is a website which gives further details about Dyer Island, one of the most of important of the "seabird" islands of the Western Cape. To obtain a bird list for Dyer Island go to www.birds.sanbi.org .

Back   Back to seabirds...   ADU Home page
Office Avian Demography Unit
Enquiries/More Information: adu-info@uct.ac.za
Original 27-March-2006 Modified 30-March-2006