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Stoney Point African Penguin Colony

A big thank you to Cuan McGeorge, Senior Field Ranger of Stony Point Seabird Breeding Colony who spent time with our group in spite of being up until two am in the morning.

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African Black-footed Penguin is now endangered

Cuan is clearly dedicated to his role of protecting the African Penguin and raising awareness of the current dire situation these endangered birds find themselves in. The African Jackass Penguine is endangered due to excessive commercial fishing off South Africa’s coast. The commercial fishing vessels are removing all the Sardines and Anchovies that we and the African Jackass Penguin live on. Have a look at CNBC in their article ” The Earth’s dying oceans threatened with mass extinction ” (published 20/11/2015)

Around 90 percent of the world’s fisheries are either “fully exploited, overexploited or have collapsed,” according to the Monterey Bay Aquarium. More than twice as many fishing boats than fishery stocks can sustain are in the water. “There are simply too many boats chasing a dwindling number of fish.
CNBC – 20/11/2015”

Closer to home, the fish is extensively used in animal feeds for chicken, pigs and sheep! This article articulates the plight of the birds, but studiously avoids pointing at the large companies that kill our seas to feed animals that should be eating grain – not fish!

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Commercial Fishing Vessels in Cape Town Harbour

Cuan shared valubale inforamtion with us and the fact remains . . . the African Jackass penguin, like many other creatures needs us to protect it. In recent years, its population has crashed 90 percent in the last 50 years. There has been a steady decline of African penguins since the late 1950s when there were around 300,000 Jackass penguins in South Africa. In 2001, there were over 100,000 individuals and recently it has been estimated that there are less than 50,000 African Jackass penguins left in that region. Scientists project an additional decrease of 17-51 percent over the next 20 years.

These small waddling birds (on land) may seem small and insignificant, however, spend some time with them and you are sure to love them. While we were all listening to Cuan, we had three of these tuxedo clad birds come waddling past us on their way to the restaurant. Along the board walk we came across many sunbathing in style, while scruffy teen penguins lazed around like fat torpedos unable to move. Others were taking to the waves and enjoying the ebb and flow of the water. One in the water they can sure move at a good speed – approx 20km/hour. And did you know African penguins like to sing too? Unfortunately their songs sound like a cross between a donkey and a kazoo.

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African Penguins basking in the sun

And here are some fascinating facts for you:

  • Each African Penguin has a different pattern of black spots on its white chest and belly, which observers use to identify individual animals.
  • They were previously called Jackass Penguins, due to their call that sounded like the braying of a donkey.
  • The name was changed to African Penguin due to other species of penguin making similar sounds, and in addition to that, S. demersus is the only species of penguin on the African continent!
  • Predators looking down from above struggle to see their black backs against the dark ocean; predators looking up from the water struggle to see their white bellies against the sky – therefore these animals are almost perfectly camouflaged from predators while swimming!
  • Their name Spheniscus demersus is derived from the Greek word spen, meaning wedge, as a reflection of their shape when swimming. Demersus is a Latin word, meaning plunging.
  • The pink markings above their eyes are glands. When the penguin gets hot, more blood rushes to the glands to be cooled down.
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African Penguins have unique markings

We hope you all will find a special place in your heart for the African Black-footed penguin.

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