Our granddaughter was disappointed that we visited Madagascar (see earlier post) and did NOT see the “Penguins of Madagascar” (she recalls having a great time at the movie theater watching it with us!). So, Eloise, here are the penguins — in South Africa! And yes, they’re cute. And smaller than you’d think…
A World Heritage Site and part of the larger Table Mountain National Park, Boulders is located just south of Simon’s Town (on the False Bay coastal road to the southern tip of Cape Peninsula at Cape Point). The National Park informs visitors that “Boulders has become world famous for its thriving colony of African Penguins and magnificent wind sheltered, safe beaches.
“Although set in the midst of a residential area, it is one of the few sites where this endangered bird (Spheniscus demersus) can be observed at close range, wandering freely in a protected environment.
“From just two breeding pairs in 1982, the penguin colony has grown to about 2,200 in recent years. This is partly due to the reduction in commercial pelagic trawling in False Bay, which has increased the supply of pilchards and anchovy, which form part of the penguin’s diet.”
— The African Penguin is listed in the Red Data Book as an endangered species.
— Of the 1.5 million African Penguin population estimated in 1910, only some 10% remained at the end of the 20th century. The uncontrolled harvesting of penguin eggs (as a source of food) and guano scraping, nearly drove the species to extinction.
— Because of the donkey-like braying call they were previously named the Jackass Penguin. Since several species of South American penguins produce the same sound, the local birds have been renamed Africa Penguins, as they are the only example of the species that breed in Africa.
— Their diet consists mainly of squid and shoal fish such as pilchards and anchovy.
— They can swim at an average speed of seven kilometers per hour (4.3 MPH), and can stay submerged for up to two minutes.
— Their enemies in the ocean include sharks, Cape fur seals and, on occasion, killer whales (Orca). Land-based enemies include mongoose, genet, domestic cats and dogs — and the Kelp Gulls which steal their eggs and new born chicks.
— Their distinctive black and white colouring is a vital form of camouflage — white for underwater predators looking upwards and black for predators looking down into the water.
— Peak moulting time is during December, after which they head out to sea to feed (since they do not feed during moulting). They return in January to mate and begin nesting from about February to August.
— After a year or two, baby blues moult and attain their distinctive black-and-white adult plumage. African Penguins generally only start breeding at about four years of age. The main breeding season starts in February. They are a monogamous species and the lifelong partners take turns to incubate their eggs and feed their young.
— Penguins have very sharp beaks and can cause serious injury if they bite or lunge.