penguins south africa
When you think about a day at the beach, what comes to mind? Most people think of sand castles, crashing waves, and seagulls. For people living along the coast of South Africa and Namibia, going to the beach also means coming face-to-face with one of the planet’s most fascinating creatures: the African penguin. So grab your sunscreen and flippers, and join us as we get up close and personal with these funny little friends!
Penguins in Africa?
We all know that Africa is home to a vast array of land animals like elephants, lions, and giraffes. These live mostly in jungles or on the grassy savannas where they can access an endless supply of food. A good habitat always offers a steady supply of food. For ocean-dwellers this is no different and the very tip of South Africa, along the coast—also known as the Horn of Africa—has one of the tastiest menus around.
Currents, or moving streams of water beneath the surface, keep a nutrient-rich food supply moving throughout the planet’s oceans. The south African coast is a meeting place for these currents, attracting a healthy menu of options for creatures living nearby. Imagine a restaurant that serves both ice cream and hot soup—there’s something for everyone!
Like all other animals who call South Africa home, the African penguin comes here to dine on these delicious eats. They have a very large appetite and enjoy the smaller fish that populate these southern waters (like sardines).
Life as a Penguin
When they’re not fishing for food, African penguins are sunning themselves on the rocky beaches of neighboring islands. South African beaches are much like those found in northern California—hot sands and chilly water. Animals living here must adapt to these constantly changing temperatures. Fortunately, African penguins are built to live both on land and under the sea. Special patches of pink skin near their eyes help keep them cool under the hot sun, while their feathers keep them warm in colder waters.
These social creatures love to chatter amongst themselves using loud vocal calls. In fact, every penguin has its’ own special call—a donkey-like sound used to attract mates or defend their territory. You might be surprised at how loud they can get, given their small stature.
Did you know that African penguins are one of the smallest species of penguin? Don’t let their size fool you! They can swim up to 12.5 miles per hour to catch a meal. These penguins can often be seen grooming each other, since clean feathers allow them to swim faster. Their feathers also make them waterproof, helping them glide through the water at high speeds to catch fish or out-swim the enemy. African penguins are also terrific at using camouflage. Their black and white coloring helps them blend in with their environment, keeping them hidden from danger and making it much easier to sneak up on their next meal.
Save the Penguins
As amazing as African penguins are, they are endangered and they need our help to survive. The number of African penguins is decreasing each year for a variety of reasons. For one thing, people are overfishing the coastal waters, depleting the penguins’ food supply. Water pollution and global warming are also threatening their habitats.
There are many people who care about the African penguins and are working hard to save them. On the South African coast, there are special organizations dedicated to increasing the number of penguins living in the wild. One of these places is called the South African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds (SANCCOB).
Workers at SANCCOB study the African penguins very closely. When they find one sick or injured, they nurse it back to health with a goal of releasing it back into the wild. They also help keep South Africa’s beaches clean so the penguins can continue to live and safely raise their baby chicks.
SANCCOB wants everyone to have a chance to meet these fantastic friends. You can visit in person or meet over video chat. They even offer a program whereby you can adopt a wild penguin and name it! But South Africa isn’t the only place you can meet these fine penguins. Many zoos and aquariums around the world are home to penguin colonies, with new chicks being born each year. These penguins are like animal ambassadors, meeting and greeting visitors who wish to learn more.
So the next time you visit a beach or aquarium, imagine for a brief moment what it might be like to swim alongside an African penguin. Maybe if we all take some time to learn about these amazing creatures, we can help them thrive for many more years to come!