The African penguin might be the only penguin on the African continent, but they are not the only penguins in South Africa.

That is because South Africa also includes the Prince Edward Islands, technically a part of the Western Cape, although being almost 2 000km away from Cape Town. These islands, which include the better-known Marion Island, are home to South Africa’s “other” penguins.

The icy climate and jagged, volcanic landscape of South Africa's Marion Island might not be ideal for humans, but it is an important refuge for many penguins, albatrosses and other marine species.

Let’s meet them:

Macaroni Penguins

Macaroni penguins (Eudyptes chrysolophus) are the most abundant penguin species in the world, with almost 24 million penguins in 260 colonies spanning South America, Australia, Antarctica and Marion Island - more than all other penguins combined. They inhabit the rocky cliffs of Marion Island and forage for tiny shrimp-like animals called krill. They are slightly larger than the related rockhopper penguins.

Credit: Jerzy Strzelecki [CC BY 3.0]

King Penguins

King penguins (Aptenodytes patagonicus) are the second-largest penguin species and the second most common on Marion Island. They do not have permanent colonies - instead, they spend most of their lives at sea, journeying up to 1 600km away in pursuit of lanternfish and squid.  These penguins are stunningly beautiful, but their fuzzy brown chicks may just be the ugly ducklings of all penguins.

Credit: Liam Quinn [CC BY-SA 2.0]

Gentoos

Gentoo penguins (Pygoscelis papua) are the rarest penguin residents of Marion island, with only a few hundred pairs calling the island their permanent home, nesting at many small protected bays and beaches on the island’s eastern side. They feed on a mix of large shrimp and rockcod, but are very opportunistic! Recent evidence suggests that these Gentoos may in fact be their own species!

Credit: Liam Quinn [CC BY-SA 2.0]

Eastern rockhoppers

Eastern rockhopper penguins (Eudyptes filholi) are very closely related to southern rockhoppers - in fact, they can only be differentiated by their DNA and their unique birdsongs. They only come to Marion Island to mate and raise their young, but like the larger king penguins, they also journey thousands of kilometres to forage - meaning they are not in competition with the similar, but resident Macaroni penguins.

Credit: Hullwarren [CC BY-SA 3.0]

That’s right - the Aquarium’s “northern” rockhoppers don’t come from Marion Island and aren’t actually South African penguins at all!

The Aquarium's northern rockhoppers were likely stranded here after being poached in the waters around different islands, such as Tristan da Cunha, and then dumped in South African waters. Credit: KT Zenz

Follow the March of the penguin:

If you missed the QR code tour during your Two Oceans Aquarium visit and would like to catch up on the extra penguin information that was shared, you can do so here: