06 May 2011

Waddle for the African penguin

Matt van Onselen
The Two Oceans Aquarium's resident African penguin, Ayoba

The African penguin is in severe danger of extinction, with numbers dropping sharply every year. While many people are sympathetic to the cause of fighting to preserve these endangered creatures, which are endemic to Southern Africa, there isn’t always a clear path of action to follow. That is why the “Waddle for Penguins” project has been set up, an awareness-raising walk (or “waddle”, if you prefer) from Gansbaai to Simon’s Town.

The waddle

The Two Oceans Aquarium Senior Bird Trainer Hayley McLellan, along with Gabby Harris, who works with uShaka SeaWorld in Durban will walk from Gansbaai to Simon’s Town from 23 to 28 May 2011: A week’s worth of activism for the much-beleaguered African penguin.

Their trek will seem them waddle through Stanford, Hermanus, Betty’s Bay, Strand and Muizenberg before they reach world-famous Boulders Beach at Simon’s Town: Boulders’ African penguin colony is unique in that visitors can get up close and personal with this endangered bird.

Hayley and Gabby have organised the event in an effort to inspire social change to aid the penguins’ survival. African penguins are an indicator species, meaning that their decline is an indicator of significant environmental degradation.

You can follow the waddle right here on our blog, where we’ll be posting regular updates, but make sure to also:

Why waddle?

Numbers have dropped substantially since 1910, when there were roughly 1.5-million African penguins, to less than 60 000 in 2010. They are classified as endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, which means something must be done to ensure the future of the species.

There are many reasons for the decline of the African penguin. While overfishing has diminished the available food for penguins, many other human activities have a large role to play, such as the destruction of suitable breeding and nesting areas due to the removal of guano, as well as the eating of penguin eggs and oil pollution.

The aquarium’s two resident African penguins, Zuki and Ayoba, are practically celebrities amongst staff and visitors. Their friendly demeanour makes them ever so approachable, and when you think of how quickly their relatives are disappearing, it makes every interaction that much more special.

That is why the “Penguin Promises” project has been set up; to encourage people to take action that will help Zuki, Ayoba, and the remaining African penguins reclaim their place in Southern Africa, and secure a bright future.

Waddle you do to help?

See also: African penguin numbers at an all-time low

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