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Namibia

Plumpudding & Sinclair Islands

Jessica Kemper

Plumpudding Island

Situated about 600m offshore, Plumpudding Island (27 29 S, 15 31 E) is a roughly rectangular, tiny island of less than 1 ha. Upon landing on Plumpudding Island, one immediately feels like a giant amongst dwarves, as everything on the island seems to be at a miniature scale. There are two small buildings, once used as permanent accommodation for island headmen guarding the island and guano collectors during the guano season, a tiny gravelly beach on the south side, a miniature hill, a short jetty and a small cave full of breeding African Penguins. Currently there are about 250-300 adult penguins on Plumpudding Island. In addition, Bank Cormorants, Crowned Cormorants, Cape Comorants and a few Kelp Gulls breed on the island. Swift Terns roost on the island. Despite the proximity to Sinclair Island, no seals frequent Plumpudding Island.

Plumpudding Island, Namibia
Photo Jessica Kemper
Only hungry seamen would dream up Plumpudding Island from this shape!
 
Plumpudding Island, Namibia
Photo Jessica Kemper
Penguins on Plumpudding Island

Sinclair Island

Sinclair Island (27 40 S, 15 31 E) lies just 3 km south of Plumpudding Island, roughly 100 m from the mainland and represents the southernmost important seabird island in Namibia - the next seabird island to the south is at Bird Island (Lamberts Bay). Sealing was an important activity on Sinclair Island until the early 1980s. A total of 235 000 seal pups were harvested from the island since the beginning of the 20th century, an average of 3 500 pups per year.

The three small houses offered accommodation for a small number of temporary staff, but processing of the seals took place on Possession Island. Guano has been collected too, but only on a small scale.

Access to the 3.2 ha island can be rather hair-raising, and involves jumping from a boat onto slippery boulders amongst irate seals, without getting swept off the rocks by the next wave. A high concrete wall has been built in the vicinity of the houses on the east side of the island, apparently to offer some protection to the seabirds from the seals. Within the wall, there are two small penguin breeding colonies, surrounded by numerous seals which have found their way into the "enclosure". How the penguin colonies have survived to this date is a bit of a mystery, since seals constantly bulldoze their way past the penguins to and from the sea. Some more penguins nest inside the now empty houses, shoulder to shoulder (or flipper to flipper) with more seals, with a few isolated penguin nests stoically scattered along the enclosure wall. Penguin numbers are estimated to be about 250-300 adult individuals.

Small numbers of Bank Cormorants, Cape Cormorants, Crowned Cormorants and Kelp Gulls also breed on the island. African Black Oystercatchers and Hartlaub's Gull frequent the island. Owing to their remoteness, the seabirds on Plumpudding and Sinclair islands are only counted once a year during early December. Like the other Namibian islands, the two islands are managed by the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources and landing without a permit is prohibited.

Sinclair Island, Namibia
Photo Jessica Kemper
Sinclair Island is deserted by humans, and the penguins have taken over
 
Sinclair Island, Namibia
Photo Jessica Kemper
Doing a census from the wall on Sinclair Island