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African Penguins

There are no external characteristics to distinguish between males and females.

We study penguin poop!

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There are many unique characteristics about African penguins. The pattern of black spots on a penguin’s chest is as unique a human fingerprint and they have a bare patch above their eyes to help regulate their body temperature. Penguins are one of only a few flightless bird species and they are the only penguin to breed in Africa; mostly surrounding islands along the coasts from Namibian to South Africa.

Penguin Swimming

HABITAT:  When not hunting for food in the water, African penguins are found along rocky shores or brushy coastal areas. 

RANGE: The only penguin to breed in Africa, 80% of the global population of African penguins can be found in 27 breeding colonies, mostly surrounding islands along the coasts from Namibian to South Africa.

STATUS: Endangered on the IUCN red list.

THREATS: Overfishing, oil spills, plastic pollution, habitat loss and climate change

Each year a Mystic Aquarium penguin trainer travels to South Africa to work at SANCCOB (Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds) to assist in the rescue, rehabilitation and release of abandoned penguin chicks.  Additionally, through collaborations with researchers, husbandry staff, educators, and concerned citizens, information on aquarium colonies of African penguins paired with field studies in South Africa are increasing our understanding on how to protect African penguin populations in the ocean.

Mystic Aquarium is an active participant in the Association of Zoos & Aquarium’s Species Survival Plan.

Trainer Josh SANCCOB South Africa
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