The African Penguin, also known as Jackass Penguin due to their donkey-like call, is endemic to Namibia and South Africa. They are the only species of penguin to breed in Africa, mainly on offshore islands. However, since the 1980’s, two populations were established on the mainland due to the decline of predators; the Simon's Town population being the most well-known due to its close proximity to Cape Town and Betty’s Bay (east of Cape Town), which is where I took these photos.
Unfortunately only 10% remain from the estimated 1.5 million back in 1910. Many factors contribute to this substantial decline including egg harvesting for human consumption, commercial fishing and oil pollution. In 2000, an iron-ore tanker sank off Cape Town oiling about 19,000 adult penguins during the height of the most successful breeding year on record. After three months and tens of thousands of volunteers, 91% of the penguins were successfully rehabilitated and released. This was the largest animal rescue in history.
Today this vulnerable species continues to decline. Fortunately, nearly all of the offshore islands are now protected and the mainland populations patrolled. If you ever find yourself in Cape Town, be sure to visit one of the populations and your small fee will go a long ways in helping the conservation of the African Penguins. Many thanks to the South African National Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds (SANCCOB), which has one of the world’s highest successes rates in saving oiled seabirds.