Penguins in South Africa are being driven from their native lands due to noise pollution from shipping activities.
The African penguin lives on the island of St. Croix off the east coast of South Africa. The animals are already endangered. But a new study has found that African penguins are leaving their natural habitats to escape noisy ship refueling.
The island once had the largest animal breeding colony in the world. But the population has fallen sharply since South Africa allowed ships in the area to refuel at sea six years ago, the study found.
Lorien Pichegru is acting director of the Coastal and Marine Research Institute at Nelson Mandela University, which led the research. She told Reuters news agency that the organization had discovered that noise levels in the area had doubled since the refueling activities began.
Scientists say high noise levels affect the ability of ocean animals to find and trap other animals for food. Noise also makes it more difficult for the animals to communicate with each other and map out travel routes.
“This year we are at 1,200 to breed pair on St Croix of 8,500 pairs in 2016,” Pichegru said. “I counted the dead birds on the bay beach every month.”
The study was recently published in the publication Science of the total environment. The researchers said the study is the first to examine the effects of noise pollution from ocean traffic on a seabird.
In 2016, the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) awarded the country’s first offshore tank operator license to Aegean Navy. Later it gave two licenses to SA Marine Fuels and Heron Marine.
The companies operating the refueling operations have not responded to Reuters’ request for comment.
Since August 2019 there is an order to stop new permits. It will only be lifted after an environmental study by port officials has been completed. The study is expected next year.
The Nelson Mandela University study used data from ship identification tools to estimate the underwater noise of passing ships.
Oil-covered penguins were found in Algoa Bay in 2019 after a ship-to-ship oil spill. Environmental groups have called for activities in the bay to be banned.
Pichegru said penguins in the area have already struggled to reproduce due to a range of problems, including industrial fishing activities. She added that the tank activities did not kill all the penguins. “It was exactly what made it all” ecology tilt and then the penguins couldn’t handle with that,” she said.
I’m Bryan Lynn.
Reuters reported this story. Bryan Lynn has adapted the report for VOA Learning English.
Words in this story
race – v. to reproduce
license – n. an official document that gives someone permission to do or have something
ecology – n. the relationship between living things and the environment
handle – v. deal with something
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