Did You Know?
The African penguin is one of 4 species of the genus Spheniscus. The other 3 species are the Humboldt, Magellanic and the Galapagos penguins. All live in temperate regions with the African being native to South Africa and Namibia. African penguins were the first penguin species known to Europeans. They nest in burrows for protection from the hot sun and predators. Often referred to as jackass penguin due to the fact that their vocalizations sound like the braying of donkeys.


African Penguin
Spheniscus demersus

Standing Height:
25-27 InchesWeight:6-8 PoundsPlumage:

Black on the back with a white breast that is outlined by a single black stripe. The face is black surrounded by a white stripe. Feet primarily black.Eyes:




Common: Cape penguin, spectacled penguin, Black-footed penguin, Jackass penguin.
Indigenous: In-guza
Afrikaners: Brilpikkewyn, Kapse pikkewyne.
Scientific: Spheniscus demersus. Spheniscus which means “little wedge” and demersus meaning “plunged”.

South Africa and Namibia

Small fish such as pilchards, anchovies, sardines and herring.

The African penguin is considered to have the most elaborate courtship rituals of any other penguin species.

Nest in burrows and lay 2 eggs, which are incubated for 38 days by both males and females. Chicks are covered in down and fed regurgitated food from the parents until they are 2 months old.

Conservation Challenges and Solutions:
Oil spill controls and oil spill rehabilitation centers such as SANCCOB. Protection of food stocks from over fishing. Control of expanding fur seal population to minimize penguin nest destruction at breeding sites. Control of introduced predators to breeding islands. Pollution control, including plastics. Increased public education.

Population/IUCN- The World Conservation Union designation:
Endangered population estimated at 52,000 birds.

African Penguins-Spheniscus demersus, is classified as Endangered because it is undergoing a very rapid population decline. On Dyer Island, an island off the coast of South Africa, the African penguin population has decreased 90 percent in the past 30 years.

One of the reasons for this decline is probably a result of commercial fisheries and shifts in prey populations. This trend currently shows no sign of reversing, and immediate conservation action is required to prevent further declines.

Competition with fisheries
African Penguins primary diet consists of Sardines and Anchovies. Commercial purse seine fisheries off the coast of South Africa and Namibia catch large quantities of Sardines and Anchovies. These large quantities dramatically reduce the supply available for penguins. In the past four years, the stocks of sardine and anchovy on the West Coast have collapsed.

Eating sustainable seafood is a great way to help ensure food for wild penguins.

North American Zoos & Aquariums:
Captive Population in North America = 702