Monday, April 2, 2012


The African penguin is also known as the black-footed penguin (Spheniscus demersus).

This medium-sized penguin has a robust body with black plumage on its back and white plumage with black markings on its chest and belly. The head, chin, throat, uppermost parts of the breast, and the whole of the upper parts are black. A broad white band commencing at the base of the bill runs above the eye, and continues around the cheeks, broadening over the upper breast.

By far the greatest threat to these interesting birds has come from humans. The present population is probably less than 10% of that in 1900, when there was estimated to be about 1.5 million birds on Dassen Island alone. By 1956 the population had fallen to roughly half that in 1900, and had halved again by the late 1970s, when there was an estimated 220,000 adult birds. By the late 1980s the number had dropped to about 194,000 and in the early 1990s there was an estimated 179,000 adult birds. Breeding no longer occurs at 10 localities where it formerly occurred or has been suspected to occur.

The reasons for the significant decline in the African Penguin populations are well known. Initially, the decline was due mostly to the exploitation of penguin eggs for food, and habitat alteration and disturbance associated with guano collection at breeding colonies (removal of the guano layer resulted in increased predation of eggs and chicks). These factors have now largely ceased, and the major current threats include competition with commercial fisheries for pelagic fish prey, and oil pollution. Given an annual rate of decline of about 2% per year, there is considerable concern about the long-term viability of African Penguins in the wild. By the late 1990s the population had recovered slightly, and in 1999 there was an estimated 224,000 individuals.

Chick recently born at the zoo.  


Images from the Toronto Zoo

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