Penguins chill while sharing their conservation message
As always, the busy festive season brought thousands of visitors to uShaka Sea World’s penguin rookery, allowing us to share our conservation message and highlight the plight of this endangered species.
With summer in full swing, the colony of 55 African penguins (Spheniscus demersus) spent time cooling off in its specially chilled pools at uShaka. Although penguins appear clumsy and comical on land, they become sleek underwater predators thanks to their superbly streamlined bodies.
"The penguin's natural element is the sea. He cannot walk with any elegancy or convenience, nor can he fly; but he can swim almost as swiftly as the shark and the fiercest storm has no terrors for him." – Cherry Kearton, Penguin Island, 1960.
With the breeding season approaching, uShaka Sea World has been filled with the sound of donkey-like braying, and I have witnessed a great deal of pair-bonding and affection being displayed among penguin partners.
African penguins have an extended breeding season, which peaks between March and May. The same pair usually returns to the same colony, and often the same nest site, year after year.
Our birds have been furiously collecting pebbles to build their nests, and sometimes become quite mischievous, stealing pebbles from their neighbours' nests. Although my colleagues and I find these little romantic dramas quite amusing, it is very serious business if you are an African penguin that needs to impress your mate and you suddenly have to waddle over to the pebble pile to replenish stocks.
One of our more successful pairs, Cupid and Oenone, are the proud owners of a whole mountain of pebbles, leaving barely enough room for the two of them in their nest – a penguin palace of note.
We celebrated Levi’s fourth birthday on 29 January. Levi is the daughter of Daiquiri and Ariel and has chosen to partner with the ever-so-handsome Snoop Dogg.
Many of the world’s penguin species are threatened by a wide range of factors, including climate change, habitat loss, overfishing and oil pollution. Several species are now considered endangered or vulnerable and are facing an uncertain future. The condition of penguin populations serves as an indicator of the marine ecosystems on which they so closely depend.
You can play a positive role by making the right choices for a healthy marine ecosystem – choose fish from the Sassi green list, make a Penguin Promise, never throw litter anywhere but in a bin, and weave the three Rs into your lifestyle – reduce, reuse and recycle.
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