South Africa has a serious problem that’s spiraling out of control. Fluffy, lovable, tuxedo-wearing balls of feather are on the loose. Think you’re immune from the charms of an African Penguin? So did I. But after strolling along the bright turquoise-blue waters around Simon’s Town, I quickly discovered how wrong I was.
Hundreds of these funny birds line the white sand of Boulders Beach, sunbathing in style and protecting their eggs. Normally penguins would have been the last animal I expected to find in Africa. But there they were directly in front of me! Did you know African penguins like to sing too? Unfortunately their songs sound like a cross between a donkey and a kazoo. But don’t tell them that to their faces, as they are easily offended.
Any real penguin lover should also pay a visit to South Africa’s premier seabird rehabilitation center in Cape Town. The Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds is an internationally recognized leader in seabird rehabilitation. They spend their days saving all types of seabirds from oil spills and educating the public with an army of volunteers from around the world. Healthy birds are then released back into the wild. You can even adopt your own penguin here. I named mine “King Bubbles the III.”
The African penguin is an endangered animal. Their numbers have dropped from 1.5 million in 1910 to around 55,000 in 2010. Overfishing, shipwrecks, egg poaching and the removal of guano from islands for fertilizer are all contributing factors to their decline. Groups like SANCCOB are working to slow and hopefully someday reverse the African Penguin’s precarious situation and prevent these beautiful birds from going extinct.
The African Penguin is just one of many incredible and unexpected animals you can discover while traveling through South Africa.