Facts about the African penguin

31 July 2017
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The African penguin's genus name Spheniscus refers to its wedge-shaped body, whilst the species name (demersus) is Latin for sinks or plunges. Otherwise referred to as the Jackass Penguin because its calls sound similar to a donkey, the correct name is 'African Penguin'.


  • The African penguin is endemic to the coastal areas of Southern Africa and is the only species of penguin that breeds in Africa.
  • It is classified as endangered and is listed under Appendix II of CITES due to the advent of industrial fishing in the Cape region.
  • They mainly eat fish (anchovies, pilchards, sardines, mackerel, and herrings) but they have been known to also eat squid and crustaceans.
  • They have been recorded diving to a depth of 130 m, but normally hunt at around 30 m. 
  • They stay within 20 km of the colony when foraging, and only hunt during daylight.
  • The average dive lasts just over 2 min.
  • They can reach a top speed of 20 km/h when hunting but normally cruise at around 7 km/h.
  • The average African penguin is 60 cm in body length and weighs between 2 kg and 3 kg.
  • They reach sexual maturity at 4-years-old and lay one or two eggs at a time. The incubation period is around 40 days.
  • In the wild, their life span is around 10 years.

The best place to view African Penguins from the mainland is Boulders Beach, Cape Town.

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