If you got to go on an African safari what animals would you want to see? Let's go over the possibilities: Elephants, giraffes, lions, cheetahs, zebras, leopards, penguins, hyenas, hippopotamus, Nile crocodile...wait a minute, something is wrong with this picture.
Penguins? In AFRICA? Aren't penguins supposed to live at the South Pole where there is lots of ice and snow?
Where The Penguins Are
Some penguins do live where the South Pole is in Antarctica. The Adelie and Emperor Penguins live in Antarctica. Several other species of penguins live on the islands around Antarctica where it is very cold. These are the penguins that are famous from movies like "March of the Penguins" and "Happy Feet".
However, there are some kinds of penguins that live in areas that are not cold and snowy. The African penguin lives in southern Africa along the coasts of Namibia and South Africa. The African penguins in the Cape Region of South Africa live in areas where the weather is like that of California in North America. The summers are hot and dry. The winters are wet and cool, but not nearly as cold as Antarctica.
The African penguins live in large groups called colonies. Each colony is made up of many breeding pairs of penguins and their offspring. Some African penguin colonies are on islands off the coast of Africa and some are on the mainland.
One of the most well-known African penguin colonies is called Boulder Beach. It is in the Cape Region of South Africa. Penguins first started showing up at Boulder Beach in 1983. This penguin colony now has about 3000 penguins in it. The Boulder Beach African penguin colony is famous because it is a protected park where people can watch the penguins from boardwalks. These are some of the most famous penguins in Africa.
The penguins of Boulder Beach build their nests by digging burrows in the sand of the beach. Some of the penguins dig their nest burrows under shrubs on the side of the hill next to the beach. When the nest is completed the female penguin will lay two eggs in the burrow. Both parents take turns sitting on the eggs.
The eggs hatch after about 40 days. The parents take care of the penguin chicks for about two to four months. After that time the chicks are able to swim and catch food on their own and leave their parents. This process is called fledging. A penguin chick that has fledged from its parents will go out into the ocean for one to two years. It will then return to the colony where it was born to find a mate.
After the parents are finished raising their chicks they will go out to sea to hunt for about four months before returning to the colony. When they return they will molt their feathers. This means that their old feathers fall out and are replaced by new feathers. Just like you, penguins sometimes need new clothes. Unlike you, they grow their own new clothes instead of going to the mall!
Will there still be penguins in Africa in the future?
African penguins hunt several kinds of fish like anchovies, herring, and sardines. Unlike humans, they don't put their anchovies on pizza - they guzzle them down raw. Yummy! (If you're a penguin that is). Some African penguins also hunt squid.
African penguins are now thought to be an endangered species because many of the fish species that they eat have declined in great numbers. Some of the decline of the African penguins' prey is due to over-fishing by people and some of it may be due to natural changes in climate and ocean temperatures. Scientists are still trying to figure out what is causing the decline of African penguin food sources.
People like African penguins and many people are working to help conserve them. Hopefully the African penguin can be conserved and they will be around for a very long time. That way you will be able to see the penguins of Africa if you ever go on a safari to South Africa or Namibia.