In 2016, the Dyer Island Conservation Trust is celebrating ten years of dedicated effort in conserving the critical marine ecosystem of Dyer Island in Gansbaai. The 20ha Island, which is managed by CapeNature and the surrounding ocean, is home to the Marine Big 5 – African Penguins, Great White Sharks, seals, dolphins and whales – and seabirds.
Volkswagen Group South Africa’s partnership with DICT started in 2011 with the sponsorship of two vehicles which were utilised to assist with activities such as beach rescues and general running of the organisation. Later on, Volkswagen became the primary supporter of the Lwazi (Xhosa for knowledge) Research Boat which is used by marine biologists to study the behaviours of the Great White Shark.
In 2015, Volkswagen again partnered with the DICT for the construction of the state-of-the-art African Penguin and Seabird Sanctuary which conserves, rehabilitates and conducts research into the endangered African Penguins and other seabirds found on Dyer Island. Furthermore, Volkswagen covers the operational costs of the APSS.
“Volkswagen’s vision is to become a company with meaning and impact in the various projects that we support. We believe our partnership and support of the Dyer Island Conservation Trust in the past five years has played a critical role in assisting the organisation to conserve, rehabilitate and research the marine ecosystem of Dyer Island and surrounding waters,” said Thomas Schaefer, Chairman and Managing Director at Volkswagen Group South Africa.
“Our partnership with DICT is part of our Think Blue initiative which focuses on environmental sustainability. Through Think Blue, we endeavour to implement small changes which will make big differences in the future of our environment. Our continuous support of the DICT is our small contribution to the ecological sustainability of our Marine Big 5, especially the endangered African Penguins. We hope our support of DICT’s good work will continue to create public awareness and will lead to more funding from the private sector which would be used to support the organisation,” added Schaefer.
DICT was founded by Wilfred Chivell in 2006. Together with CapeNature, DICT started the African Penguin housing project to address the issue of the lack of breeding habitat for this species. Past extensive guano scraping removed the African penguins’ natural breeding habitat and left them exposed to predators and other elements. Chivell designed a unique penguin home, modelled on its natural burrows. His design was lauded nationally and internationally and and is now a developing project used extensively at other colonies.
At the end of 2015, only 1 500 breeding pairs of African Penguins were left on Dyer Island. It is estimated that there are now about 18 000 African Penguins left in South African colonies. This is a 90% decline from the 1920 estimate of the population of one million.
Chivell said: “DICT is very grateful to have partner like Volkswagen who shares similar philosophy of the importance of conserving our environment for the future generations. The lack of funding is one of the many challenges that impede non-profit organisations. The support from Volkswagen with vehicles and fuel for Lwazi research boat has made an immense difference to the running of DICT. We hope this partnership will continue for many more years to come as our work has just begun.”