The African Penguin Simonstown
penguin colonies inhabiting the coastal islands and
beaches of the Cape South Africa were previously known as "Jackass"
penguins due to the donkey-like sound they make. However they've now been named "African" penguins because they are different
in their appearance and behavior to the original Jackass penguin which
is to be found in South America.
Penguins evolved many millions of years ago and are thought to have originated at the end of the dinosaur era. Their lifespan is generally 10-12 years, they reach 50cm in height and weigh up to 4 kgs. They are powerful acrobatic swimmers using their short wings as fins to propel them through the water and their webbed feet to paddle when floating.
African Penguins found at Simonstown are distinguished by a black curve of feathers which spans their upper body. They are adapted to cold weather and one of the ways in which they cope with the warmth of the Cape summer is by 'moulting' or loosing their feathers.
This takes place each year at the time of the Cape Spring/Summer in November-December for about three weeks. During this time the penguins lose considerable weight and become weaker because they are are land bound and cannot fish. To compensate, the penguins increase their weight substantially beforehand by overeating.
There are a number of sites around the coast of South Africa on which colonies of the African Penguin are found. The largest colony is on the island of St.Croix off Port Elizabeth which contains around 50,000 penguins.
The colony at Boulders Beach Simonstown is home to 2,500 penguins approx..
The African Penguin feeds on fish which it hunts in the upper sea water levels, such as mackerel, anchovies and pilchards. Its diet has become depleted by the fishing industry which has forced it to adapt to eating other sea life such as crustaceans and squid.
Penguins breed from about 4 years old. The African Penguin is generally monogamous, remaining with the same partner. At Boulders Beach Simonstown breeding takes place February - August, producing 1-2 eggs each year.
The African Penguin nests in shallow burrows in the sand which it digs to protect its young from the sun and it will return to the same site each year.
African penguin at Boulders
Beach Simonstown was originally spotted
there in 1983. Since then a colony developed as many penguins migrated
from Dyer Island to take advantage of improved fishing in the Bay.
The Cape Peninsula National Park, now Table Mountain National Park eventually took responsibility for the control of the penguins in order to conserve their environment and prevent them from becoming a nuisance to residents of the area.
Fences and boardwalks have been built to prevent the penguins from wandering from the beach and to enable visitors to view them safely without disturbing the environment. Access to the area is controlled during office hours and weekends, an information centre has been established and an entry fee is charged to raise funds for conservation.
A rescue and rehabilitation
centre for the African
Penguin and other sea birds, known as the Southern African National
Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds SANCCOB,
has been in operation near Tableview Cape Town for over 20
years and is considered to be one of the most effective
rehabilitation centres of its type in the world. It is funded by
donations and members subscriptions.
Recent rehabilitations include one of 18,000 penguins which were de-oiled and cleaned following the sinking of the ore carrier 'Treasure' near Robben Island.
Here's my page about Boulders Beach Simonstown