When you think of animals in South Africa I’m sure what instantly springs to mind is the Big Five. But in amongst all of the excitement of lions and elephants, what you might not necessarily think of is these little guys:
The African penguin is actually an endangered species. At the beginning of the last century about four million birds existed, but by 2010 the number was estimated to be only 55,000. As well as facing some of the same problems as many penguin breeds over the years, such as commercial fishing and their eggs being collected by humans, African penguins also experience some additional threats which are quite specific to their home – such as leopard attacks.
However lots of conservation work is being done to ensure that colonies of African penguins are able to thrive. We went to see two of them on our South Africa roadtrip at Betty’s Bay and Boulders Beach, which is part of Table Mountain National Park.
Both areas have fenced wooden walkways running over the rocks and dunes to enable visitors to watch the birds without disturbing them. And to be fair, they did seem completely oblivious to us as they went about their daily business of building their nests, caring for their babies and generally trying to find ways to keep themselves cool in the African sun.
Mainland nesting colonies of African penguins in South Africa are rare and the Boulders Beach colony originated in 1982 from only two breeding pairs. Apparently the penguins aren’t popular with everyone as they make a loud noise, which resembles a donkey’s bray, hence why one of their nicknames is the Jackass penguin. But we absolutely loved them and I could have stayed there all day watching them.