The new penguin colony that could save a species

African penguin numbers are dwindling - but researchers think they may have found a solution. They're trying to make a new breeding colony.

A team plan to release scores of orphaned, hand-reared penguin chicks at South Africa's Western Cape De Hoop nature reserve in the hope of saving them from extinction.

Since January last year, they have deployed dummy penguins that emit the bird's distinctive call to try and entice them to De Hoop.

Success so far has been hit and miss - but researcher Christina Hagen says they remain optimistic.

"This has never been done for the Africa Penguin, it's been done for other seabird species around the world and possibly the most successful and famous example is the Atlantic Puffin off the East Coast of the US, they used, they also used decoys and releasing chicks at the site and they eventually got a very big thriving colony."

There was once over a million penguins here in South Africa, back in the 1920s. Now there's only around 13,000.

The researchers now plan to release around 50 juvenile birds each year over several years - starting early next year - to try and establish the colony.

Using decoys is more unusual strategy. Hagen says hand-reared chicks are usually released into existing colonies.

But De Hoop has good fishing waters, and was settled briefly by penguins in the mid-2000s - until they deserted it again after leopards started hunting them.

"From other studies the decoys don't even have to be super realistic, they can just be the right shape and colour and the birds respond to them. We took our decoys to an existing colony at Stony Point and put them out with the penguins just to see how the penguins would react. We didn't want there to be some kind of adverse reaction and it worked really well, the penguins were kind of interested, it didn't attack them, they also didn't completely ignore them so that was a really good sign for us and we also managed to fool some tourists into thinking they were real."

Dwindling African penguin numbers are attributed largely to depleting fish stocks - and worsened by climate change.

Their eggs have also been harvested for human consumption.