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African Penguin

Scientific Classification

Common Name
African penguin, black-footed penguin
Kingdom
Animalia
Phylum
Chordata
Class
Aves
Order
Sphenisciformes
Family
Spheniscidae
Genus Species
Spheniscus demersus

Fast Facts

Description
African penguins are a medium-sized temperate penguin with one black band across their chest. They have a variable amount of black spotting on their chest and belly.
Size
61 to 71 cm (24 to 28 in.)
Weight
Up to 3 kg (7 lbs.)
Diet
Mostly anchovies and sardines but also squids, crustaceans, and other fishes
Incubation
About 38 days
Sexual Maturity
4 years old
Life Span
15 to 20 years
Range
South African waters
Habitat
Inshore islands and sometimes on the mainland coast
Population
Global: 180,000 individuals
Status 
IUCN: Vulnerable
CITES: Appendix II (threatened or likely to become endangered)
USFWS: Not listed

Fun Facts

Temperate species, like the African penguin, lack feathers on their legs and have bare patches on their faces. Excess heat can dissipate through these unfeathered areas.

African penguins tend to nest throughout the year.

Gulls and ibises eat 40% of African penguin eggs.

On June 23, 2000 the ore carrier Treasurer caused an oil spill near Robben and Dassen islands off South Africa. The International Fund for Animal Welfare's (IFAW) International Oiled Wildlife Response Team, directed by the International Bird Rescue Research Center (IBRRC), was immediately mobilized to South Africa to help care for more than 20,000 oiled penguins. Due to this rapid response, within a year, the African penguin population on Robbin Island recovered to prespill numbers.

For more information about penguins, explore the PENGUIN INFOBOOK.


Ecology and Conservation

Population declines may be attributed to food shortages due to competition with commercial fisheries, human disturbance, egg-collecting, weather events, and oil spills.

All 18 penguin species are legally protected from hunting and egg collecting. The Antarctic Treaty of 1959 makes it illegal to harm, or in any way interfere with, a penguin or its eggs. Every penguin specimen collected with a permit must be approved by and reported to the Scientific Committee for Antarctic Research (SCAR). Penguins are vulnerable to habitat destruction, overfishing of primary food sources, ecological disasters such as oil spills, pollution such as trash in the ocean, and human encroachment into nesting areas.


Bibliography

BirdLife International (2006) Species factsheet: Spheniscus demersus. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org

Coats, Judith. Penguins: Flightless Birds of the Southern Hemisphere. SeaWorld Education Department, 2001.

Nuzzolo, Debbie. Penguin March. SeaWorld Education Department, 2002.