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South African scientists have hatched a plan to bribe penguins to build a new colony in the De Hoop Nature Reserve, 232 kilometres from Cape Town.

Called the African Penguin Relocation Project, it is run in partnership by BirdLife South Africa and CapeNature.

Since the turn of the 20th century, we’ve lost 99% of the African Penguin population. Scientists predict they could be “functionally extinct” (less than 50 pairs in a colony) by 2035.

BirdLife SA say it’s because the penguins’ preferred prey – sardine and anchovy – are no longer as abundant as they once were along the west coast of Africa. The fish have instead shifted south and eastwards, away from major penguin colonies. The shift, combined with overfishing, has caused penguin populations to plummet.

Populations on the west coast of South Africa have suffered the most, with an over 60% decrease in the last 20 years.

Other colonies in Namibia, which have low populations of about 5,000 pairs, are currently being affected by avian flu, which has the potential to decrease their numbers further, said Christina Hagen, Pamela Isdell Fellow of Penguin Conservation at BirdLife South Africa, who is leading the project.

Source: Scientists are trying to ‘bribe’ South African penguins with sexy decoys and enticing bird calls