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Ten Interesting Facts About African Penguins.

1. The African penguin is also known as the Cape penguin, South African penguin, the black-footed penguin and the jackass penguin.

2. They are called jackass penguins because of the loud, donkey-like call they make even though several other species of penguins make the same sound.

3. Their scientific name is Spheniscus demersus. Spheniscus comes from the Greek word sphēn meaning a wedge, referring to their thin, wedge-shaped flippers and demersus is a Latin word meaning plunging or “to sink”.

4. They are the only penguin species that occur naturally on the African Continent.

5. There were approximately 4 million African penguins at the beginning of the 19th century and about 1.5 million in the early 1900s. Just 10% of this number remained at the end of the 20th century.

6. Penguins forage out at sea, usually diving to depths of about 25m for around 70 seconds, although they can dive to as much as 130m for a long as 4,5 minutes.

7.  Food preferences are sardines, anchovies and squid.

8. They breed in colonies, the monogamous pairs retiring to the same site each year to breed.

9 They breed mainly on some 24 islands from Namibia to Algoa Bay in South Africa, Boulders Beach in Simonstown and Stony Point at Betty’s Bay being the exceptions.

10. They grow to a height of between 60 and 70cm tall and can weigh as much as 3,5kg.

Image Number A1R434505-Edit. African penguin, Cape penguin or South African penguin (Spheniscus demersus) colony at Stony Point on the Whale Coast, Betty's Bay (Bettys Bay), Overberg, Western Cape, South Africa

Where to see penguins in South Africa

While there are many African penguin breeding colonies on inaccessible islands along the Namibian coastline and the South African west and southern coastlines, there are just 2 on the South African mainland - Boulders Beach in Simonstown and Stony Point in Betty’s Bay in the Overberg.

The Boulders Beach colony is the more popular one with thousands of local and international tourists visiting the South African National Parks site each year. From just 2 breeding pairs in 1982 the colony has grown to include some 3 000 birds. A series of boardwalks and interpretive displays take you, in some cases, to within a few metres of the penguins. Click here for more information.

The other colony is situated at Stony Point in the tiny holiday town of Betty’s Bay some 90km to the south east of Cape Town. While it can get a little busy in holiday season, it’s nothing like Boulders Beach for tourist traffic. While there is a Cape Nature boardwalk that takes you to the actual Stony Point (awesome views and good viewing of other seabirds) there is a coastal path heading east along the shore that offers good viewing of part of the colony. Click here for more information.

Stock Penguin Photos

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