The guy behind the lens

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I'm a Science Teacher, Nature Photographer, Husband, Father, and Grandfather who loves to explore the natural world by traveling, photographing and thinking. 


Saturday, July 30, 2011

Jackass - the Penguin

Looking back through my archives I thought I'd share one of my favorite and most overlooked animals with you. On my trip to South Africa in 2006 I had the pleasure to visit the area around Capetown for two days. On one of those days I was able to tour the peninsula that ends in the famous Cape of Good Hope, the most southwesterly tip of Africa.

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!


Cheryl said...

Smiling. I'm not sure if I could tell or not. The penguin's voice is not as distinctive (read annoying) as the donkey's.

Kerri said...

That is sooooo funny!! LOVE it (and stumbled)

Gary said...

Great post!! Boom & Gary of the Vermilon River, Canada.

Kay L. Davies said...

It took me several tries to load the video of the penguin, John, but I'm glad I kept trying. Yes, I can see (hear) how it got its nickname.
I love your photos. My husband enticed me to accompany him to the Galapagos Islands by saying they had penguins, which I adore. And of course I fell in love with the whole Galapagos archipelago.
Your photos remind me of the Galapagos penguins, too. Their faces are similar.

—Kay, Alberta, Canada

GW Bill Miller said...

They do sound like donkeys. Your blog is always full of interesting things.

Tatjana Parkacheva said...

Excellent photos.
About the sounds... there is a difference, but I'll never guess that the second sound is from penguin :)


eileeninmd said...

What a cool sighting and trip. i would love to see the penguins in the wild. Awesome photos and I loved the videos. The sounds are funny.

Joyful said...

I've always been rather fascinated by the penguin. I think it is their colouring and the way they walk. It is sad that they are in such decline. Hopefully they will rally back to healthy numbers.

Lisa RedWillow said...

LOVE it and he is so cute.