My friendly hosts took me for a drive to Simon’s Town on Sunday, to introduce me to the African penguins of Boulders Beach. (You can learn all kinds of fascinating facts about them on Reggie’s blog.)
Boulders Beach itself is part of Table Mountain National Park; if you pay an entrance fee, you can go down onto the pristine beaches, to see the penguins up close. But – NB! – no touching! They have razor-sharp beaks, and can be a little cantankerous and nippy, particularly during breeding season. If the beach is full (it is quite small, and they can only accommodate limited numbers), you can also walk along the wooden boardwalk, which is known as Willis’ Walk. This is what we did.
The African penguins here are an endangered land-based colony, one of only a few in the whole world. In 2011, when the last penguin census was done, they identified only 2,100 birds – a dramatic reduction from the 150,000 breeding pairs counted in 1956, when the first full census was conducted.
This reduction is most likely due to the destruction of their natural habitat, the effects of marine pollution, particularly oil spills, over-fishing and the impacts of global warmingn on fish stocks and fish movements, irresponsible tourism activities, and attacks by domestic pets.
Life is hard for these lovable little creatures!