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Robben Island ( af, Robbeneiland) is an
island An island (or isle) is an isolated piece of habitat that is surrounded by a dramatically different habitat, such as water. Very small islands such as emergent land features on atoll An atoll (), sometimes known as a coral atoll, i ...

island
in
Table Bay Table Bay (Afrikaans File:WIKITONGUES- Alaric speaking Afrikaans.webm, Alaric speaking Afrikaans. Afrikaans (, ) is a West Germanic languages, West Germanic language spoken in South Africa, Namibia and, to a lesser extent, Botswana, Zambia ...

Table Bay
, 6.9 kilometres (4.3 mi) west of the coast of
Bloubergstrand 300px, Recreation at Bloubergstrand, with Table Mountain in the background Bloubergstrand is a seaside suburb of the City of Cape Town The City of Cape Town ( af, Stad Kaapstad; xh, IsiXeko saseKapa) is the metropolitan municipality which ...

Bloubergstrand
, north of
Cape Town Cape Town (Afrikaans: Kaapstad ; Xhosa language, Xhosa: ''iKapa;'') is the second-most populous city in South Africa, after Johannesburg, and also the legislative Capital city, capital of South Africa. Colloquially named the Mother City, it is ...

Cape Town
, South Africa. It takes its name from the
Dutch Dutch commonly refers to: * Something of, from, or related to the Netherlands * Dutch people () * Dutch language () *Dutch language , spoken in Belgium (also referred as ''flemish'') Dutch may also refer to:" Castle * Dutch Castle Places * ...
word for seals (''robben''), hence the Dutch/Afrikaans name ''Robbeneiland'', which translates to ''Seal(s) Island''. Robben Island is roughly oval in shape, long north–south, and wide, with an area of . It is flat and only a few metres above sea level, as a result of an ancient erosion event. It was fortified and used as a prison from the late-seventeenth century until 1996, after the end of
apartheid Apartheid (South African English South African English (SAfrE, SAfrEng, SAE, en-ZA) is the set of English language dialects native to South Africans. History British British may refer to: Peoples, culture, and language * B ...

apartheid
. Political activist and lawyer
Nelson Mandela Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela (born Rolihlahla Mandela ; ; 18 July 1918 – 5 December 2013) was a South African anti-apartheid revolutionary, political leader and philanthropist who served as the first president of South Africa Th ...

Nelson Mandela
was imprisoned on the island for 18 of the 27 years of his imprisonment before the fall of
apartheid Apartheid (South African English South African English (SAfrE, SAfrEng, SAE, en-ZA) is the set of English language dialects native to South Africans. History British British may refer to: Peoples, culture, and language * B ...

apartheid
and introduction of full, multi-racial democracy. He was later awarded the
Nobel Peace Prize The Nobel Peace Prize is one of the five Nobel Prize The Nobel Prizes ( ; sv, Nobelpriset ; no, Nobelprisen ) are five separate prizes that, according to Alfred Nobel Alfred Bernhard Nobel ( , ; 21 October 1833 – 10 Decemb ...
and was elected in 1994 as
President of South Africa The President of the Republic of South Africa is the head of state A head of state (or chief of state) is the public persona who officially embodies a state (polity), state#Foakes, Foakes, pp. 110–11 " he head of statebeing an embodi ...
, becoming the country's first black president and serving one term from 1994–1999. In addition, the majority of prisoners were detained here for political reasons. Two other former inmates of Robben Island, in addition to Mandela, have been elected to the presidency since the late-1990s:
Kgalema Motlanthe Kgalema Petrus Motlanthe (; born 19 July 1949) is a South African politician who served as the third president of South Africa between 25 September 2008 and 9 May 2009, following the resignation of Thabo Mbeki. After the end of his presidency, ...
(2008–2009) and
Jacob Zuma Jacob Gedleyihlekisa Zuma (; born 12 April 1942) is a South African politician who was the fourth president of South Africa The President of the Republic of South Africa is the head of state A head of state (or chief of state) is t ...

Jacob Zuma
(2009–2018). Robben Island is a South African National Heritage Site as well as a
UNESCO World Heritage Site A World Heritage Site is a landmark or area with legal protection by an international convention administered by the UNESCO, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). World Heritage Sites are designated by UNES ...
.


History

Located at the entrance to
Table Bay Table Bay (Afrikaans File:WIKITONGUES- Alaric speaking Afrikaans.webm, Alaric speaking Afrikaans. Afrikaans (, ) is a West Germanic languages, West Germanic language spoken in South Africa, Namibia and, to a lesser extent, Botswana, Zambia ...

Table Bay
, 11 km from Cape Town, this island, was discovered by
Bartolomeu Dias Bartolomeu Dias (; ; Anglicized: Bartholomew Diaz; c. 1450 – 29 May 1500), a nobleman of the Portuguese royal household, was a Portuguese explorer. He sailed around the southernmost tip of Africa in 1488, the first European to do so, s ...

Bartolomeu Dias
in 1488 and, for many years, it was used by
Portuguese navigators Portuguese discoveries (Portuguese language, Portuguese: ''Descobrimentos portugueses'') are the numerous territories and maritime routes recorded by the Portugal, Portuguese as a result of their intensive maritime exploration during the 15th and ...
, later by English and Dutch as a refueling station. Its current name means “seal island”, in Dutch. In 1654, the settlers of the
Dutch Cape Colony The Cape Colony ( nl, Kaapkolonie) was a Dutch East India Company, Dutch United East India Company (VOC) Colony in Southern Africa, centered on the Cape of Good Hope, from where it derived its name. The original colony and its successive states ...

Dutch Cape Colony
placed all of their ewes and a few rams on Robben Island, and the men built a large shed and a shelter. The isolation offered better protection against wild animals than on the mainland. The settlers also collected seal skins and boiled oil to supply the needs of the settlement.History of South Africa, 1486 - 1691, G.M Theal, London 1888. Since the end of the 17th century, Robben Island has been used for the incarceration of chiefly
political prisoner A political prisoner is someone imprisoned because they have opposed or criticized the government responsible for their imprisonment. The term is used by persons or groups challenging the legitimacy of the detention of a prisoner. Supporters ...
s. The Dutch settlers were the first to use Robben Island as a prison. The island's first prisoner was probably
AutshumatoAutshumato (or Autshumao; ''Herry'' or ''Harry de Strandloper'') was a chief of the Khoekhoe Gorinhaikonas (or Goringhaicona) who worked as an interpreter for the Europeans in present-day, Cape Town, South Africa prior and during the establishment ...
in the mid-17th century. Among its early permanent inhabitants were political leaders imprisoned from other
Dutch colonies The Dutch colonial empire comprised the overseas territories and trading posts controlled and administered by Dutch chartered companies—mainly the Dutch West India Company and the Dutch East India Company—and subsequently by the Dutch Republ ...
, including the
Dutch East Indies The Dutch East Indies (or Netherlands East-Indies; nl, Nederlands(ch)-Indië; ) was a Dutch colony The Dutch colonial empire ( nl, Nederlandse koloniale rijk) comprised the overseas territories and trading posts controlled and administer ...
, and the leader of the mutiny on the slave ship ''Meermin''. After the British
Royal Navy The Royal Navy (RN) is the United Kingdom's naval warfare Naval warfare is combat Combat ( French for ''fight'') is a purposeful violent conflict meant to physically harm or kill the opposition. Combat may be armed (using weapon A ...
captured several Dutch
East Indiamen East Indiaman was a general name for any sailing ship operating under charter or licence to any of the East India Company (disambiguation), East India trading companies of the major European trading powers of the 17th through the 19th centuries. ...
at the battle of Saldanha Bay in the
Fourth Anglo-Dutch War The Fourth Anglo-Dutch War ( nl, Vierde Engels-Nederlandse Oorlog; 1780–1784) was a conflict between the Kingdom of Great Britain The Kingdom of Great Britain, officially called Great Britain,"After the political union of England and ...
in 1781, a boat rowed out to meet the British warships. On board were the "kings of
Ternate Ternate is a city A city is a large human settlement.Goodall, B. (1987) ''The Penguin Dictionary of Human Geography''. London: Penguin.Kuper, A. and Kuper, J., eds (1996) ''The Social Science Encyclopedia''. 2nd edition. London: Routledge. It ...

Ternate
and
Tidore Tidore ( id, Kota Tidore Kepulauan, lit. "City of Tidore Islands") is a city, island, and archipelago in the Maluku Islands The Maluku Islands or the Moluccas () (''Molukken'') are an archipelago An archipelago ( ), sometimes called a ...

Tidore
, and the princes of the respective families". The Dutch had long held them on "Isle Robin", but then had moved them to Saldanha Bay. In 1806, the Scottish whaler John Murray opened a whaling station at a sheltered bay on the north-eastern shore of the island, which became known as Murray's Bay. It was adjacent to the site of the present-day harbour named Murray's Bay
Harbour A harbor (American English American English (AmE, AE, AmEng, USEng, en-US), sometimes called United States English or U.S. English, is the set of variety (linguistics), varieties of the English language native to the United States. C ...

Harbour
, which was constructed in 1939–40. After a failed uprising at
Grahamstown Makhanda, commonly known as Grahamstown, is a town of about 70,000 people in the Eastern Cape province of South Africa South Africa, officially the Republic of South Africa (RSA), is the southernmost country in Africa. With over Demograph ...

Grahamstown
in 1819, the fifth of the
Xhosa Wars The Xhosa Wars (also known as the Cape Frontier Wars or the Kaffir Wars) were a series of nine wars or flare-ups (from 1779 to 1879) between the Xhosa people, Xhosa Kingdom and encroaching European settlers in what is now the Eastern Cape in S ...
, the British colonial government sentenced African leader Makanda Nxele to life imprisonment on the island. He drowned on the shores of
Table Bay Table Bay (Afrikaans File:WIKITONGUES- Alaric speaking Afrikaans.webm, Alaric speaking Afrikaans. Afrikaans (, ) is a West Germanic languages, West Germanic language spoken in South Africa, Namibia and, to a lesser extent, Botswana, Zambia ...

Table Bay
after escaping the prison. The island was also used as a leper colony and animal
quarantine A quarantine is a restriction on the movement of people, animals and goods which is intended to prevent the spread of disease A disease is a particular abnormal condition that negatively affects the structure A structure is an arr ...

quarantine
station. Starting in 1845, lepers from the ''Hemel-en-Aarde'' (heaven and earth) leper colony near Caledon were moved to Robben Island when ''Hemel-en-Aarde'' was found unsuitable as a leper colony. Initially, this was done on a voluntary basis, and the lepers were free to leave the island if they so wished. In April 1891, the cornerstones for 11 new buildings to house lepers were laid. After passage of the Leprosy Repression Act in May 1892, admission was no longer voluntary, and the movement of the lepers was restricted. Doctors and scientists did not understand the disease and thought that isolation was the only way to prevent other people from contracting it. Prior to 1892, an average of about 25 lepers a year were admitted to Robben Island, but in 1892 that number rose to 338, and a further 250 were admitted in 1893. During the
Second World War World War II or the Second World War, often abbreviated as WWII or WW2, was a global war A world war is "a war War is an intense armed conflict between states State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literatur ...
, the island was fortified. BL 9.2-inch guns and 6-inch guns were installed as part of the defences for
Cape Town Cape Town (Afrikaans: Kaapstad ; Xhosa language, Xhosa: ''iKapa;'') is the second-most populous city in South Africa, after Johannesburg, and also the legislative Capital city, capital of South Africa. Colloquially named the Mother City, it is ...

Cape Town
. From 1961, Robben Island was used by the South African government as a prison for political prisoners and convicted criminals. In 1969, the ''Moturu Kramat,'' now a sacred site for
Muslim Muslims () are people who follow or practice Islam Islam (; ar, اَلْإِسْلَامُ, al-’Islām, "submission o God Oh God may refer to: * An exclamation; similar to "oh no", "oh yes", "oh my", "aw goodness", "ah gosh", ...

Muslim
pilgrimage A pilgrimage is a journey, often into an unknown or foreign place, where a person goes in search of new or expanded meaning about their self, others, nature, or a higher good, through the experience. It can lead to a personal transformation, aft ...
on Robben Island, was built to commemorate Sayed Abdurahman Moturu, the Prince of Madura. Moturu, one of Cape Town's first
imam Imam (; ar, إمام '; plural: ') is an Islamic leadership position. For Sunni Islam, Sunni Muslims, Imam is most commonly used as the title of a worship leader of a mosque. In this context, imams may lead Salah, Islamic worship services, ...
s, had been exiled in the mid-1740s to the island. He died there in 1754. Muslim political prisoners would pay homage at the shrine before leaving the island. In 1982, former inmate Indres Naidoo's book "Island in Chains" became the first published account of prison life on the island. The maximum security prison for political prisoners closed in 1991. The medium security prison for criminal prisoners was closed five years later.Chronology
, Robben Island Museum website, retrieved 8 June 2013
With the end of apartheid, the island has become a popular tourist destination. It is managed by Robben Island Museum (RIM); which operates the site as a living museum. In 1999, the island was declared a
World Heritage Site A World Heritage Site is a landmark or area with legal protection by an international convention administered by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). World Heritage Sites are designated by UNESCO for h ...
for its importance to South Africa's political history and development of a democratic society. Every year, thousands of visitors take the ferry from the
Victoria & Alfred Waterfront The Victoria & Alfred (V&A) Waterfront in Cape Town Cape Town (Afrikaans File:WIKITONGUES- Alaric speaking Afrikaans.webm, Alaric speaking Afrikaans. Afrikaans (, ) is a West Germanic languages, West Germanic language spoken in South Af ...

Victoria & Alfred Waterfront
in Cape Town for tours of the island and its former prison. Many of the guides are former prisoners. All land on the island is owned by the nation of South Africa, with the exception of the island church. Administratively, Robben Island is a suburb of the
City of Cape Town The City of Cape Town ( af, Stad Kaapstad; xh, IsiXeko saseKapa) is the metropolitan municipality (South Africa), metropolitan municipality which governs the city of Cape Town, South Africa and all of its suburbs and Commuter town, exurbs. As o ...
. It is open all year around, weather permitting.


Access to the island

Robben Island is accessible to visitors through tours that depart from
Cape Town Cape Town (Afrikaans: Kaapstad ; Xhosa language, Xhosa: ''iKapa;'') is the second-most populous city in South Africa, after Johannesburg, and also the legislative Capital city, capital of South Africa. Colloquially named the Mother City, it is ...

Cape Town
's waterfront. Tours depart three times a day and take about 3.5 hours, consisting of a ferry trip to and from the island, and a tour of the various historical sites on the island that form part of the Robben Island Museum. These include the island graveyard, the disused lime quarry,
Robert Sobukwe Robert Mangaliso Sobukwe (5 December 1924 – 27 February 1978) was a prominent South Africa South Africa, officially the Republic of South Africa (RSA), is the southernmost country in Africa. With over Demographics of South Africa, 59&n ...
's house, the Bluestone quarry, the army and navy bunkers, and the maximum security prison. Nelson Mandela's cell is shown.


Maritime hazard

Seagoing vessels must take great care navigating near Robben Island and nearby Whale Rock (it does not break the surface) as these pose a danger to shipping. A prevailing rough swell surrounds the offshore reefs and the island's jagged coastline. Stricken vessels driven onto rocks are quickly broken up by the powerful . A total of 31 vessels are known to have been wrecked around the island. In 1990, a marine archaeology team from the
University of Cape Town The University of Cape Town (UCT) is a public university, public research university located in Cape Town in the Western Cape province of South Africa. UCT was founded in 1829 as the South African College making it the oldest higher education ...
began Operation "Sea Eagle". It was an underwater survey that scanned of seabed around Robben Island. The task was made particularly difficult by the strong currents and high waves of these waters. The group found 24 vessels that had sunk around Robben Island. Most wrecks were found in waters less than deep. The team concluded that poor weather, darkness and fog were the cause of the sinkings. Maritime wrecks around Robben Island and its surrounding waters include the 17th-century Dutch
East Indiaman East Indiaman was a general name for any sailing ship operating under charter or licence to any of the East India trading companies of the major European trading powers of the 17th through the 19th centuries. The term is used to refer to vesse ...

East Indiaman
ships, the ''Yeanger van Horne'' (1611), the ''Shaapejacht'' (1660), and the ''Dageraad'' (1694). Later 19th-century wrecks include several British
brig A brig is a sailing vessel with two square-rigged Square rig is a generic type of Sail-plan, sail and rigging arrangement in which the primary driving sails are carried on horizontal spar (sailing), spars which are perpendicular, or wikt:sq ...

brig
s, including the ''Gondolier'' (1836), and the
United States The United States of America (U.S.A. or USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S. or US) or America, is a country Continental United States, primarily located in North America. It consists of 50 U.S. state, states, a Washington, D.C., ...

United States
clipper A clipper was a type of mid-19th-century Merchant ship, merchant Sailing ship, sailing vessel, designed for speed. Clippers were generally narrow for their length, small by later 19th century standards, could carry limited bulk freight, and had ...

clipper
, ''A.H. Stevens'' (1866). In 1901 the mail steamer SS ''Tantallon Castle'' struck rocks off Robben Island in dense fog shortly after leaving Cape Town. After distress cannons were fired from the island, nearby vessels rushed to the rescue. All 120 passengers and crew were taken off the ship before it was broken apart in the relentless swell. A further 17 ships have been wrecked in the 20th century, including
British British may refer to: Peoples, culture, and language * British people The British people, or Britons, are the citizens of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ir ...

British
,
Spanish Spanish may refer to: * Items from or related to Spain: **Spaniards, a nation and ethnic group indigenous to Spain **Spanish language **Spanish cuisine Other places * Spanish, Ontario, Canada * Spanish River (disambiguation), the name of several ...

Spanish
,
Norwegian Norwegian, Norwayan, or Norsk may refer to: *Something of, from, or related to Norway, a country in northwestern Europe *Norwegians, both a nation and an ethnic group native to Norway *Demographics of Norway *The Norwegian language, including the t ...

Norwegian
and
Taiwanese Taiwanese may refer to: * Something from or related to Taiwan (Formosa) * Taiwanese aborigines, the indigenous people of Taiwan * Han Taiwanese, the Han people of Taiwan * Taiwanese people, residents of Taiwan or people of Taiwanese descent * Taiwan ...

Taiwanese
vessels.


Robben Island lighthouse

Due to the maritime danger of Robben Island and its near waters,
Jan van Riebeeck Johan Anthoniszoon "Jan" van Riebeeck (21 April 1619 – 18 January 1677) was a Dutch navigator and colonial administrator who founded Cape Town Cape Town (Afrikaans File:WIKITONGUES- Alaric speaking Afrikaans.webm, Alaric speaking A ...

Jan van Riebeeck
, the first Dutch colonial administrator in Cape Town in the 1650s, ordered that huge bonfires were to be lit at night on top of Fire Hill, the highest point on the island (now Minto Hill). These were to warn
VOC VOC, VoC or voc may refer to: Science and technology * Open-circuit voltage (VOC), the voltage between two terminals when there is no external load connected * Variant of concern, a category used during the assessment of a new variant of a virus * ...

VOC
ships that they were approaching the island. In 1865, Robben Island lighthouse was completed on Minto Hill. The cylindrical masonry tower, which has an attached lightkeeper's house at its base, is high with a lantern gallery at the top. In 1938, the lamp was converted to electricity. The lighthouse uses a flashing lantern instead of a revolving lamp; it shines for a duration of 5 seconds every seven seconds. The 46,000-
candela The candela ( or ; symbol: cd) is the of in the (SI); that is, luminous power per unit emitted by a point light source in a particular direction. Luminous intensity is analogous to , but instead of simply adding up the contributions of ever ...

candela
beam, visible up to away, flashes white light away from
Table Bay Table Bay (Afrikaans File:WIKITONGUES- Alaric speaking Afrikaans.webm, Alaric speaking Afrikaans. Afrikaans (, ) is a West Germanic languages, West Germanic language spoken in South Africa, Namibia and, to a lesser extent, Botswana, Zambia ...

Table Bay
. A secondary red light acts as a navigation aid for vessels sailing south-southeast.


Wildlife and conservation

When the Dutch arrived in the area in 1652, the only large animals on the island were
seal Seal may refer to any of the following: Common uses * Pinniped Pinnipeds (pronounced ), commonly known as seals, are a widely range (biology), distributed and diverse clade of carnivorous, fin-footed, List of semiaquatic tetrapods, semiaqu ...
s and birds, principally penguins. In 1654, the settlers released rabbits on the island to provide a ready source of meat for passing ships. The original colony of
African penguin The African penguin (''Spheniscus demersus''), also known as the Cape penguin or South African penguin, is a species of penguin Penguins (order (biology), order Sphenisciformes , family (biology), family Spheniscidae ) are a group of Water ...

African penguin
s on the island was completely exterminated by 1800. But, since 1983, a new colony has been established there, and the modern island is again an important breeding area for the species. The colony grew to a size of ~16,000 individuals in 2004, before starting to decline in size again. , this decline has been continuous (to a colony size of ~3,000 individuals). Such a decline has been found at almost all other African penguin colonies. Its causes are still largely unclear and likely to vary between colonies, but at Robben Island are probably related to a diminishing of the food supply (sardines and anchovies) through competition by fisheries. Easy to see in their natural habitat, the penguins have been a popular tourist attraction. Around 1958, Lieutenant Peter Klerck, a
South African Navy The South African Navy (SA Navy) is the naval warfare Naval warfare is combat Combat (French language, French for ''fight'') is a purposeful violence, violent conflict meant to physically harm or kill the opposition. Combat may be armed ...
officer serving on the island, introduced various animals. The following extract of an article, written by his son Michael Klerck, who lived on the island from an early age, describes the local fauna:
My father, a naval officer at the time, with the sanction of Doctor Hey, director of Nature Conservation, turned an area into a nature reserve. A 'Noah's Ark' berthed in the harbour sometime in 1958. They stocked the island with
tortoise Tortoises () are reptiles Reptiles, as most commonly defined, are the animals in the class Class or The Class may refer to: Common uses not otherwise categorized * Class (biology), a taxonomic rank * Class (knowledge representation), a ...

tortoise
,
duck Duck is the common name for numerous species of waterfowl Anseriformes is an order (biology), order of birds that comprise about 180 living species in three families: Anhimidae (the 3 screamers), Anseranatidae (the magpie goose), and Anati ...

duck
,
geese A goose (plural geese) is a bird of any of several waterfowl Anseriformes is an order of bird Birds are a group of warm-blooded vertebrates constituting the class (biology), class Aves , characterised by feathers, toothless beaked ...

geese
, buck (which included
Springbok The springbok (''Antidorcas marsupialis'') is a medium-sized antelope The term antelope is used to refer to many species of even-toed ruminant Ruminants (suborder In biological classification, the order ( la, wikt:ordo#Latin, ordo) ...

Springbok
, Eland,
Steenbok The steenbok (''Raphicerus campestris'') is a common small antelope The term antelope is used to refer to many species of even-toed ruminant Ruminants are herbivorous mammals of the suborder Ruminantia that are able to acquire nutrients from p ...

Steenbok
,
Bontebok The bontebok is a subspecies of ''Damaliscus pygargus'', an antelope The term antelope is used to refer to many species of even-toed ruminant Ruminants are herbivorous mammals of the suborder Ruminantia that are able to acquire nutrients from ...

Bontebok
and
Fallow Deer ''Dama'' is a genus Genus /ˈdʒiː.nəs/ (plural genera /ˈdʒen.ər.ə/) is a taxonomic rank In biological classification In biology, taxonomy () is the scientific study of naming, defining (Circumscription (taxonomy), circumscrib ...

Fallow Deer
),
Ostrich ''Struthio'' is a genus Genus /ˈdʒiː.nəs/ (plural genera /ˈdʒen.ər.ə/) is a taxonomic rank In biological classification In biology, taxonomy () is the scientific study of naming, defining (Circumscription (taxonomy), circums ...

Ostrich
and a few
Wildebeest Wildebeest ( , , ), also called gnu ( or ), are antelope The term antelope is used to refer to many species of even-toed ruminant Ruminants (suborder In biological classification, the order ( la, wikt:ordo#Latin, ordo) is # a taxo ...

Wildebeest
which did not last long. All except the fallow deer are indigenous to the Cape. Many animals are still there including three species of tortoise—the most recently discovered in 1998—two Parrot Beaked specimens that have remained undetected until now. The
leopard The leopard (''Panthera pardus'') is one of the five extant species In biology, a species is the basic unit of biological classification, classification and a taxonomic rank of an organism, as well as a unit of biodiversity. A species is ...

leopard
or mountain tortoises might have suspected the past terror; perhaps they had no intention of being a part of a future infamy, but they often attempted the swim back to the mainland (they are the only species in the world that can swim). Boats would lift them out of the sea in Table Bay and return them to us. None of the original 12 shipped over remain, and in 1995, four more were introduced—they seem to have more easily accepted their home as they are still residents. One resident brought across a large leopard tortoise discovered in a friend's garden in
Newlands, Cape Town Newlands is an upmarket suburb of Cape Town, South Africa. It is located at the foot of Table Mountain in the Southern Suburbs, Cape Town, Southern Suburbs of Cape Town, and is the wettest suburb in South Africa due to its high winter rainfall. T ...
. He lived in our garden and grew big enough to climb over the wall and roam the island much like the sheep in Van Riebeeck's time. As children we were able to ride his great frame comfortably, as did some grown men. The buck and ostriches seemed equally happy and the ducks and were assigned a home in the old quarry, which had, some three hundred years before, supplied the dressed stone for the foundations of the Castle; at the time of my residence it bristled with fish. Recent reports in Cape Town newspapers show that a lack of upkeep, a lack of culling, and the proliferation of rabbits on the island has led to the total devastation of the wildlife; there remains today almost none of the animals my father brought over all those years ago; the rabbits themselves have laid the island waste, stripping it of almost all ground vegetation. It looks almost like a desert. A reporter from the broadcasting corporation told me recently that they found the carcass of the last
Bontebok The bontebok is a subspecies of ''Damaliscus pygargus'', an antelope The term antelope is used to refer to many species of even-toed ruminant Ruminants are herbivorous mammals of the suborder Ruminantia that are able to acquire nutrients from ...

Bontebok
.
In the early 21st century, the
rabbit Rabbits, also known as bunnies or bunny rabbits, are small mammal Mammals (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language A classical language is a language A language is a structured system of communication ...

rabbit
population had reached an estimated 25,000, which had become an
invasive species An invasive species is an introduced organism that becomes overpopulated and negatively alters its new environment. Although their spread can have beneficial aspects, invasive species adversely affect the invaded habitat Ibex in an ...
, endangering others.
Humans Humans (''Homo sapiens'') are the most abundant and widespread species In biology, a species is the basic unit of biological classification, classification and a taxonomic rank of an organism, as well as a unit of biodiversity. A speci ...
are hunting and
culling In biology Biology is the natural science that studies life and living organisms, including their anatomy, physical structure, Biochemistry, chemical processes, Molecular biology, molecular interactions, Physiology, physiological mechan ...
the rabbits to reduce their number.BBC News.
Robben Island is 'under threat'
'. 31 October 2009.


Gallery

File:Kathrada Obama Robben island.jpg,
Ahmed Kathrada Ahmed Mohamed Kathrada (21 August 1929 – 28 March 2017), sometimes known by the nickname "Kathy", was a South African politician and anti-apartheid activist. Kathrada's involvement in the anti-apartheid activities of the African National Con ...
, who was imprisoned in Robben Island between 1964 and 1982, is pictured giving a tour of the prison to the then
US President The president of the United States (POTUS) is the head of state A head of state (or chief of state) is the public persona A persona (plural personae or personas), depending on the context, can refer to either the public image of ...
Barack Obama Barack Hussein Obama II ( ; born August 4, 1961) is an American politician and attorney who served as the 44th president of the United States The president of the United States (POTUS) is the head of state and head of government ...

Barack Obama
and his family in 2013. File:Rock pile, Robben Island Prison.jpg, Rock pile started by
Nelson Mandela Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela (born Rolihlahla Mandela ; ; 18 July 1918 – 5 December 2013) was a South African anti-apartheid revolutionary, political leader and philanthropist who served as the first president of South Africa Th ...

Nelson Mandela
and added to—one rock at a time—by former prisoners returning to the island. File:Moturu Kramat.jpg,
Muslim Muslims () are people who follow or practice Islam Islam (; ar, اَلْإِسْلَامُ, al-’Islām, "submission o God Oh God may refer to: * An exclamation; similar to "oh no", "oh yes", "oh my", "aw goodness", "ah gosh", ...

Muslim
Moturu Kramat shrine on Robben Island. File:World War II Guard Pillbox, Robben Island (01).jpg,
World War II World War II or the Second World War, often abbreviated as WWII or WW2, was a global war A world war is "a war War is an intense armed conflict between states State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literatur ...
guard
pillboxPillbox may refer to: * Pill organizer, a container for medicine * Pillbox hat, a woman's hat with a flat crown, straight upright sides, and no brim * Pillbox (military), concrete dug-in guard posts * Pillbox affair, a 1939 British political and mi ...
. File:ASC Leiden - Rietveld Collection - 41 - African sacred ibis (Threskiornis aethiopicus) on grassland - 2015 (cropped).jpg,
African sacred ibis The African sacred ibis (''Threskiornis aethiopicus'') is a species of ibis The ibises () (collective plural ibis; classical plurals ibides and ibes) are a group of long-legged wading bird Birds are a group of warm-blooded vertebrates ...
on Robben Island, 2015.


See also

* 1620 Robben Island earthquake *
List of World Heritage Sites in South Africa The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO french: Organisation des Nations unies pour l'éducation, la science et la culture) is a speci ...
* List of heritage sites near Cape Town


References


Further reading

*


External links


Robben Island Museum

Robben Island – UNESCO World Heritage Centre

Robben Island Museum at Google Cultural Institute
{{Authority control Nature reserves South African heritage sites World Heritage Sites in South Africa Suburbs of Cape Town Nelson Mandela Prison islands Atlantic islands of South Africa Tourist attractions in Cape Town Penguin colonies