Facts about the African penguin | Discover Africa Safaris
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Facts about the African penguin

Karl Svendsen 31 July 2017
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Not all penguins reside in cooler climates. The African penguin for one is found at the southern most tip of Africa and with an estimated 52,000 left in the wild, it has been added to the endangered list. This is largely due to industrial fishing in the Cape and the removal of guano for fertiliser by large machines.

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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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