African penguins (Spheniscus demersus), or the jackass penguin has risen to fame by posing for millions of photos at Boulders Beach in Simonstown just outside Cape Town. Interestingly though, the largest breeding colony occurs on St Croix island off the coast of Port Elizabeth. Their comical waddle and oh-so-cute faces have given them celebrity status around the globe. However, the only penguin species endemic to the African continent is under huge threat of becoming extinct.
Some interesting facts:
- Penguins are in an elite but unusual group of birds which cannot fly. They look like they fly underwater though!
- They moult once a year over a period of about three weeks. During that time, they are not waterproof and thus remain on land.
- They grow to about 60cm in height and weigh approximately 3.5kg.
- Amazingly, these little chaps can dive under water for almost 3 minutes while looking for fish such as anchovies and sardines.
- The start breeding from the age of 4 years. Both parents incubate the eggs which are usually laid in pairs.
- African penguins are classified as ENDANGERED on the IUCN Red List. This is mainly due to food shortages as a result of overfishing and pollution.
If you ever come across an oiled or injured penguin or seabird, contact SANCCOB. Dedicated staff and volunteers at two centres (in Cape Town and Port Elizabeth) rescue and rehabilitate injured sea birds, including penguins. If you’d like to volunteer at one of their centres or find an injured bird on the beach, get in touch with them.
We visited the Simonstown colony in September last year on our Soul Safari. You can go any time of year but it gets very crowded during school holidays. They are very entertaining to watch but boy they are smelly! A