African Penguin, Spheniscus demersus
Coolest Fact: November 25, 1488, a crew member with Vasco da Gama wrote in his diary about birds that “cannot fly and bray like donkeys.” Probably the first sighting by Europeans of a penguin.
Where It’s Found: 28 colonies from Namibia to the Eastern Cape of South Africa. The most accessible colony is at Boulders Beach near Cape Town.
· IUCN Status: Endangered.
· Population: Declined by about 95% in last century. About 25,000 survive in 28 colonies in 2010.
· Mating: Monogamous.
· Nesting: Burrows and scrapes in sand. Clutch consists of two eggs.
· Annual Cycle: return to colonies in March, breed and hatch in Antarctic winter.
· Life span: 10-15 years; in captivity up to 27 years.
· Food: Sardines, anchovies
· Threats: oils spills, fisheries, climate change.
Our First Sighting: June 10, 2011
Robben Island, South Africa
One of the most endangered penguins in the world, the African penguin may very well go extinct in this century. Its population has plummeted through the last century. The last stronghold of African penguins is on Robben Island, where Susan and I volunteered for two weeks on an Earthwatch Expedition focused on African Penguins. One of our jobs was to help weigh and measure baby chicks. The information helps biologists monitor the health of the colony, which may be collapsing. We spent our tenth wedding anniversary, unforgettably, with the penguins on Robben Island!
This new penguin series includes stories, information, and photos not yet published. Read about our quest to see all 18 of the world’s penguin species in my book “Every Penguin in the World.”