By: Eunice Poku
Can you say Spheniscus Demersus? Well neither can I. How about African Penguins? Yes, you read correctly. African Penguins, which is the preferred nomenclature, do exist in Africa. African Penguins are known to breed on 24 islands between Hollamsbird Island, Nambia and Bird Island in Algoa Bay, South Africa as well as Boulders Beach colony in Simons Town (a mainland site near Cape Town).
These flightless, aquatic birds are also known as Black-footed Penguin or Jackass Penguin because of the sounds they make. The African Penguin is the only Penguin species inhabiting the African continent. Their distinctive characteristics consist of black backs, a white front coat and a long black stripe across the top of the chest. Younger penguins have blue-grey backs and white fronts.
Penguins in general easily adapt to cold environments in mostly South America and Antarctica lands. However, the African Penguin has evolved physically and behaviorally to cope with the higher temperatures in Africa. Most of the breeding occurs in the dusk and dawn periods. To protect itself from the heat during breeding, the African Penguin will nest under bushes or boulders. The life expectancy can range between 10 to 11 years and in some cases up to 24 years. Breeding doesn’t occur to usually 4 years of age. They breed with the same partner for several years and can produce up to two eggs a year. African Penguins in the Boulder Beach population breed in March and May.
Tourist attraction has become an increasing problem at some of the colony sites including Boulder Beach. At Boulder Beach, beach goers can swim along side the Penguins. Although the Penguins at Boulder are not harmful and are not bothered by human attention, humans are warned not to harass them.
The African Penguin existence has been threatened by the exploitation of penguin eggs for food, land and sea predators, oil pollution, diseases and commercial fisheries seeking pelagic fish. In 2010, the African Penguin was listed as endangered under the U.S. Endangered Species Act. There are several organization concerned with preserving the African Penguin including Southern National Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds (SANCCOB) which rescue birds from water pollution and other environmental disasters.
So the next time you find yourself in Nambia or South Africa include the African Penguin in your vacation tour.