The most-visited penguin colony in the world is in South Africa. According to this article in DiscoveryNews, more than 600,000 tourists visit each year to see the African penguins.
The African penguin population has decreased by 90 percent over the past century, earning it an “endangered” label. It stands to reason that the locals better figure out how to reverse this trend, if for no other reason than to protect the tourism industry.
And that’s just what is happening. The environmentalists got the government to agree to protecting a 12-miles area of water that is normally trawled by massive fishing nets — nets which take much of the penguin’s food, forcing penguins to go further and further away from their nets.
Sure enough, the GPS monitors attached to the penguins proved that the birds didn’t have to swim out as far, conserving precious energy.
There are only 26,000 breeding pairs of African penguins, so it’s clear to me that this test needs to be made permanent.
Here’s the home page of the South African government’s environment agency if you want to send them an email. I just did, for what it’s worth. I may be living in Seattle but I plan to travel to South Africa some day and I want those penguins to be there when I arrive.
It’s sadly ironic that protecting tourism is what drives wildlife protection these days. But it’s a strategy that works.