The African Penguin is found only in Namibia and South Africa. It was previously referred to as the Jackass Penguin due to its donkey-like bray. The population was estimated to be around 1.5 million in the early 1900’s, but today only about 10% remain.
The reason for the rapid decline is a combination of many factors, such as overfishing (meaning that the penguins have to swim longer distances to hunt), extensive collection of eggs for consumption in the mid 1900’s (a particularly destructive habit was that of smashing all eggs a few days before collection to ensure that all eggs were fresh), harvesting of guano for production of fertiliser (depraving the penguins of burrowing material) and oil spills.
The south African Marine Rehabilitation & Education Centre, SAMREC, in Port Elizabeth is working tirelessly to save the African Penguin, but it is a race against time. In 2010, they were told that at the current rate of decline the penguins would be extinct in 20 years. In 2014, that same number was 4 years! These little fellas are literally balancing on the brink of extinction, and are under a more severe threat than the rhino right now.
At SAMREC, you can learn more about endangered marine life and there is an excellent education centre for children where touching is encouraged. You can also see the cleaning centre (where birds affected by oil spills are taken care of) and the vet’s area where weak birds are treated, fed and weighed. But the main attraction is obviously the penguins themselves! All proceeds go towards the running of the centre, and you can also support them by giving a donation or even adopt your own little one!