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Safari Africa Animal Fact Sheet
AFRICAN PENGUIN
Spheniscus demersus

Range:
South-western coast of Africa, living in colonies on 24 islands between Namibia and South Africa. The African Penguin (Spheniscus demersus) is also known as the Blackfooted Penguin (and formerly as the Jackass Penguin).

They have a black stripe and black spots on the chest, the spots being unique for every penguin, like human fingerprints. They have pink sweat glands above their eyes. The hotter the penguin gets, the more blood is sent to these sweat glands so it may be cooled by the surrounding air, thus making the glands more pink. The males are larger than the females and have larger beaks, but their beaks are more pointed than those of the Humboldt. Their distinctive black and white coloring is a vital form of camouflage- white for underwater predators looking upwards and black for predators looking down onto the water.

Of the 1.5-million African Penguin population estimated in 1910, only some 10% remained at the end of the 20th Century. The uncontrolled harvesting of penguin eggs (as a source of food), and guano scraping, nearly drove the species to extinction.

As recently as the mid-twentieth century, penguin eggs were considered a delicacy and were still being collected for sale. Unfortunately, the practice was to smash any eggs found a few days prior to gathering, in order to ensure that only fresh ones were sold. This added to the drastic decline of the penguin population around the Cape coast, a decline which was hastened by the removal of guano from islands for use as fertilizer, eliminating the burrowing material used by penguins. Penguins remain susceptible to pollution of their habitat by petrochemicals from spills, shipwrecks and cleaning of tankers while at sea.

Penguin Habitat Sponsored By:


Habitat: Coastal areas.
Diet: Small fish such as pilchards, sardines and anchovies.
Status: Endangered (IUCN). Part of the Species Survival Plan (SSP).
Approximate Dimensions of Adult: Weight: 4.4-8.8lbs
Height: 26.7-27.5 in
Lifespan: 10-11 years.
Reproduction & Offspring: Females lay two eggs, with an incubation period of 38-42 days. They are a monogamous species and the lifelong partners take turns to incubate their eggs and feed their young.

 

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