The Spheniscus demersus, more commonly known as the African penguin, is a unique species of penguin. They can measure anywhere from 24-27 inches (60-68 centimeters) tall and weigh 4.4-11 pounds (2-5 kg) with the males generally being larger than the females. One noticeable feature is the pink gland located above each eye that will become pinker as they get hotter. They can live a fairly long life with some reaching up to 20 years in age.
African penguins can be found along the coast of South Africa as well as a number of its surrounding islands. The largest colony can be found on Dyer Island, which is near Kleinbaai. They live in colonies both for mating and protection. On land, creatures such as crabs, hawks, snakes and owls will eat African penguins. While at sea, they must watch out for sharks, killer whales, fur seals and sea lions. Their fantastic swim speed however, helps them avoid such predators as well as catch their own prey.
An African penguin is a carnivorous creature and its diet consists solely of marine mammals. The majority of their meals consist of krill and small crustaceans. They will, however, dine on larger organisms such as squid and a variety of fish. They can reach speeds of 12 miles per hour (20 kilometers) and dive over 98 feet (30 meters) while hunting. Some African penguins will even travel up to 68 miles (110 kilometers) when foraging for food.
Breeding for the African penguin can take place at any time of the year, although most of it takes place in February. A male and a female will usually mate once a year for life on bare ground in breeding areas called ‘rookeries’. They shall dig shallow burrows in the sand, under rocks, in guano (bird excrement) or they will just seek shelter under sparse vegetation. Two green eggs will be laid and both parents will take turns incubating them. After 38-42 days, at least one of the eggs will usually hatch and see the world. Chicks are taken care of by their parents and remain with them until they are about one year old.
The African penguin is a threatened species. At the start of the 20th century, they were almost hunted to extinction. Today, their biggest threats are oil spills and loss of habitat, both of which are not easily dealt with. Such a unique species of penguin deserves our respect and protection if it is to survive and prosper well into the future. Thankfully, they are now protected by law in certain areas. With any luck, such efforts will help bring this creature back from the brink.
“African Penguin” 6 November 2010
“Species: African (or Blackfooted) Penguin” 6 November 2010
www.theanimalfiles.com/birds/penguins/african_penguin.html”African Penguin” 6 November 2010