Along the was I stopped in the community of Simon's town (map). This old naval town is now known for the colony of Jackass penguins (Spheniscus demersus) that inhabit the protected Boulders Beach area. Given that Simon's Town is located at 34 degrees south latitude, I was initially surprised to find a permanent colony of penguins. Other than the penguins that inhabit the Galapagos Islands of the equator, these are one of the most northerly colonies of penguin.
The government of South Africa protects these unique birds as they are endemic (native only) to South Africa and Namibia and their population is in historical decline. Back in 1930 the population was estimated at over 1.2 million birds. By 2006, their numbers were less than 120,000. The cause of their decline is multifaceted, but the main factors seem to have been guano harvesting for fertilizer and egg harvesting. Since the early 1990's two oil spills along the South African coast (1994 & 2000) also impacted penguin populations.
In addition to their unique geography, their name instantly draws quizzical looks whenever you mention their name. The more "normal" name for these penguins is the African Penguin, but the name "jackass" penguin came about because when you encounter these characters they brey like donkeys. Even knowing this in advance, I found myself standing amongst them looking for donkeys! The sound is THAT realistic!
Here is a real donkey braying.............
Now listen to the Penguins from Boulders Beach......
If you were blindfolded, could you tell the difference?
Thanks for visiting and I hope you leave these birds with a smile on your face!