The African penguin is found only on the southwestern coast of Africa, where they are dispersed into colonies across 24 different islands, known as the Penguin Islands. African penguins can be recognized by the pink patches of skin above their eyes, which are used to regulate body temperature. When these penguin get too warm, blood is sent to these patches to be cooled by the outside air, making the glands appear pinker.
African penguins are monogamous, meaning they have one partner throughout their life. Each breeding season produces a small clutch of 1-2 eggs per pair, which are incubated for 40 days. Unfortunately, the population of African penguins has declined over 95% since pre-industrial times and the species is listed as endangered. Current estimates show the species will go extinct by 2026 if current climate change and human activity trends continue.
Why do they matter?
The African penguin is the only species of penguin found in Africa. They play important roles in their ecosystem, both as a food source for sharks and seals and also act as predators to small fish such as anchovies and sardines.
The massive decline of the African penguin is an indicator that our actions on this planet can have major consequences on species that once thrived.
African penguins are also play a role in the economy as an attractant for ecotourism, where tourists are able to closely observe the species’ behavior in their natural environment. However, humans are also leading to their downfall. Locals have historically harvested their eggs for food and money, which continues to severely harm their population numbers.
Will climate change affect the African penguin? Yes.
Egg harvesting is just one of the many human actions this species is threatened by. Major oil spills in Algoa Bay continue to occur, which have the potential to kill many of the penguins in the area. African penguins are also facing food scarcity from competition with local fisheries as well as warming ocean temperatures that are causing fish to move away from their normal ranges. With their extinction expected in only six years, many people may be unable to witness this amazing species for themselves.