Wildlife Spotlight: African Penguin Awareness Day
We’re here to dispel some common myths and answer questions about African penguins. One common myth is that all penguins live in the ice and snow, but this is actually not the case. All 17 species of penguins live in the southern hemisphere, but only three species live year-round in Antarctica. African penguins, also known as black-footed penguins, live along the coast of South Africa. They feed on a variety of fish, crustaceans, and squid. So, the birds you see at Penguin Passage love the California sun!
Our penguins range in age from less than a year old to 14 years old. Many of the birds you will see out on exhibit were actually hatched and raised here at the park, thanks to our successful breeding program. African penguins are monogamous, which means they keep the same mate year after year, and you will often see pairs on exhibit resting together or grooming each other even outside of their breeding season. They are also very curious and playful, so make sure to stop by and look for penguins chasing bubbles or playing with other toys out on exhibit. They’re even curious about you!
Over the past year, we implemented a training program to allow interactions with the guests at the park. At our event, donate $5 and you may be one of the lucky guests to interact closely with Coaster, Fozzie, Rebel, and Vader, and get the photo of a lifetime. All four of these penguins were hatched and raised here at the park and are between the ages of two and four years old. All donations collected will be donated to the Southern African Foundation of the Conservation of Coastal Birds (SANCCOB).
While our penguins here at the park are having fun, their wild relatives are not so lucky, and have recently been placed on the endangered species list. As of 2012, the African penguin population is only 2% of what it was in 1930. Over-fishing, loss of breeding grounds, and oil spills are all probable explanations for this decrease. In fact, it only took two oil spills to cut the population of African penguins by 30,000 birds. All donations we collect on October 11 will be sent to SANCCOB, allowing them to not only help rehabilitate wild penguins after oil spills, but also raise chicks for release to the wild. The chicks they raise and release have a much higher chance of survival to breeding age, helping to boost the wild population. Researchers at SANCCOB are also doing important research on other species of seabirds in South Africa.
For more information, please visit http://www.sanccob.co.za/.