The African Penguin (Spheniscus demersus) is a small African bird featured in the Africa Pack DLC for Planet Zoo.
Population in the Wild:41,700
The African penguin is a flightless bird that inhabits the coastline and islands of South Africa and Namibia. The African penguin has a black back and flippers, black feet, and a black face ´mask´ with white surrounding it. It also has a white torso with a black strap across the upper chest. The eyes of the African penguin are surrounded by pink patches which are used in thermoregulation. Each penguin has a unique pattern of black spots on its chest. African penguins are 60 to 68cm in size and weigh between 2.2 and 3.5kg. Males are slightly larger than females and have a longer beak.
The African penguin is an endangered species with multiple factors contributing to its vulnerability. Historically, their eggs were heavily poached and their nest sites were often disturbed, although now there are conservation efforts in place to prevent this. They are also vulnerable to oil spills and their food sources are being depleted due to overfishing. It is estimated that conservation efforts have helped their population recover by 20% since 1968, though their population is currently declining and the African penguin may become extinct within 15 to 20 years.
African penguins are social animals and when not foraging at sea, they live in extremely large colonies of many thousands of mated pairs.
During the breeding season, African penguins will come ashore. Males arrive onshore 4 days before females. They will use these 4 days to locate a nest site with which to impress a female. They build nests out of pebbles, guano, and other debris.
African penguins mate for life, so when females arrive, previously mated pairs will locate each other with specific calls. Unattached females will move amongst the males. Males will attempt to attract females with vocalizations, neck swinging displays, and showing off their nest site.
When a male has attracted a female, they will solidify their bond vocalizing together and entwining their necks. Copulation is initiated by the penguins bowing to each other. The female will lay 2 eggs in the nest 3 weeks after mating. The male and female will incubate the egg for 40 days, taking it in turns to hunt during this time
Zoopedia Fun Facts
- African penguin eggs were seen as delicacy up until the 1970s; this contributed to the species' decline.
- African penguins are preyed upon by sharks and fur seals in the ocean and kelp gulls, mongoose, cape genets and domestic cats and dogs on land.
- The African penguin is also known as the Jackass penguin due to its donkey-like cry.
- Penguin faeces, called guano, is an extremely effective fertilizer, but humans harvesting it disturbs the nest sites of African penguins and removes one of the main materials penguins use to build their nests.
- African penguins cannot hunt while moulting as their feathers are not yet waterproof, so they fast until their plumage has fully grown in. Moulting takes 3 weeks and penguins lose 50% of their bodyweight in this time.