It was a picture of a slightly different kind as the sun beat down on the huge granite rocks that make up Boulders Beach in Simon’s Town. Instead of the familiar penguin or two (a popular safari request, by the way), a twisting line of red and blue-clad members of SANCCOB drew the attention as it made its way down the boardwalk towards the beach, each person holding a large brown box with bold black letters warning: “handle with care”. By: Halden Krog
Slowly the boxes were lined up on the dunes, and the boardwalk suddenly became packed with onlookers all talking in hushed tones, some pointing, while others tried to capture the moment with their cameras.
All went silent just before the boxes were opened. The boxes were tipped over to reveal their monochromatic passengers inside. Seven plump African penguins plopped onto the white sand before slowly surveying their surroundings. Guided by instinct, they took to the cool water.
The only adult of the group took the lead showing the youngsters the way down through the gauntlet of rocks, seaweed and rude local penguins (it would seem penguin colonies are not necessarily welcoming to newcomers). Eventually, all seven waddled into the surf, shaking their tails and ducking their heads in the Atlantic water. There were cheers and congratulations as another successful release was successfully concluded.
The African penguin (Spheniscus demersus) is found on the southwestern coast of Africa in established colonies on 24 different islands and rocks off the Namibian and South African shorelines. While they breed within this range, their presence has been recorded as far north as Gabon and Mozambique. Historically, penguins avoided mainland nesting sites due to the risk of large-animal predation, particularly by leopards, caracals and jackals. However, a burgeoning human population reduced potential threats and kept large predators at bay. As a result, the first trailblazing penguin pairs began to nest on the mainland around forty years ago. Today, the two best-known mainland colonies are in South Africa: Boulders Beach in Simon’s Town and Stony Point in Betty’s Bay.
READ MORE about penguins here
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