When the African penguin made a comeback to the South African mainland in the 1980s, most people were thrilled that the embattled bird was again breeding in places other than on a few rocky islets off the coast of Cape Town. Fences and viewing platforms were erected to protect the penguins from tourists flocking to see them. The adorable penguins stimulated business for restaurants and gift shops.
Penguins Bray Like Donkeys
But all that’s changed for Betty’s Bay, a coastal town east of Cape Town where the local people feel the penguins are getting out of hand, especially as the fences built to protect them have fallen into disrepair and the pushy birds have started taking up residence in suburban yards. According to a report on CNN (video above), Betty’s Bay residents have had enough of the stinky birds and their constant noise, which they say keeps them awake at night. These birds are loud. “African penguins are also called jackass penguins because of their donkey-like bray,” says the Encyclopedia of Life on its web page about them.
According to the Encyclopedia of Life, the species, Spheniscus demersus, breeds at 25 islands and four mainland sites in Namibia and South Africa. “In the 1980s, the species colonized Stony Point [the Betty’s Bay site] and Boulders Beach on the South African mainland, and recolonized Robben Island. Immigration to mainland sites in recent years has been attributed to an eastward shift in the species’s prey populations. Just seven islands now support 80 percent of the global population. Its population at the beginning of the 21st century had fallen to about 10 percent of its numbers 100 years before…Declines have continued, with the global population in 2009 estimated at just 25,262 pairs, equating to a decline of 60.5 percent over 28 years (three generations),” the Encyclopedia of Life says.
News Watch reported last year that a colony of African penguins living and breeding on a small island off the southern tip of Africa is fighting an increasingly desperate battle for survival. Their numbers are declining drastically despite the care of conservation organizations which have banded together to give them help, even by providing them with nesting homes to shelter them from the sun and to hide their eggs and chicks from sea gulls.
“Their plight is typical of the increasingly precarious situation of the species as a whole which last year shifted from Vulnerable to Endangered on the IUCN (World Conservation Union) Red List of Threatened Species,” News Watch correspondent Leon Marshall wrote. Read his post: African Penguin Colony at the Edge of Extinction.
David Braun is director of outreach with the digital and social media team illuminating the National Geographic Society’s explorer, science, and education programs.
He edits National Geographic Voices, hosting a global discussion on issues resonating with the Society’s mission and major initiatives. Contributors include grantees and Society partners, as well as universities, foundations, interest groups, and individuals dedicated to a sustainable world. More than 50,000 readers have participated in 10,000 conversations.
Braun also directs the Society side of the Fulbright-National Geographic Digital Storytelling Fellowship.