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The Penguins of Boulders Beach

Boulders Beach near Capetown, South Africa,  is so named because of the numerous granite boulders which form part of the coastline there.   The area is notable for its colony of African Penguins which can be viewed at fairly close range,  which was the purpose of my trip there.

The penguins,  also known as Jackass Penguins because of the donkey like braying sound they make,  are an endangered species with their numbers dropping from about 1.5 million in 1910 to around 55000 in 2010.    Indeed it's feared that the species could be extinct within 15 years if the decline isn't halted.    At Boulders,  specifically,  there is some cause for optimism.    Prior to 1982 there were no penguins at the location,  but from just 2 breeding pairs which found their way there,  the colony has now grown to about 3000 birds.    One of the reasons for this improvement is believed to be a change in policy regarding commercial fishing in the area.    The reduction in trawling activity led to an increase in stocks of pilchards and anchovies on which the penguins feed.

Threats to Penguin Survival.

As suggested above,  over exploitation of fisheries is a threat to the survival of the species.   When their food source is diminished,  the penguins are forced to go further out to sea to hunt.   Predation by sharks, Cape fur seals, orcas,  mongoose, genets and kelp gulls is compounded by the impact of domestic animals such as cats.    Removal of guano from some islands for use as fertilizer disrupts breeding as the guano is used as burrowing material.      In addition to all this,  pollution from oil spills and the cleaning of tankers at sea is another danger.

African Penguins, Boulders Beach
African Penguins, Boulders Beach

The penguins have distinctive markings on their chests,  no two birds markings are the same.

African Penguins, Boulders Beach, South Africa
African Penguins, Boulders Beach, South Africa
African Penguin leaves burrow
African Penguin leaves burrow

The fleshy pink patch above the eye of the bird plays an important function in thermo-regulation.

African Penguin
African Penguin
African Penguins
African Penguins
African Penguin making its way to the beach.
African Penguin making its way to the beach.
African Penguin
African Penguin

I'll be trying to finish off my South Africa photos in the weeks ahead so there may be several SA related posts coming up.   A comprehensive photo gallery will be on the way too.   ~KD.