What can you do?
African, or black-footed, penguins can be found on 25 different islands in four different countries in South Africa. They are currently listed as “Endangered” on the IUCN red list, which means that their populations are currently in severe decline and the trends show no sign of reversing. Penguins are still facing negative consequences from the oil spill in 2000, when the damaged bulk ore carrier MV Treasure sank six miles off the coast of South Africa, but there are several other factors contributing to their decline.
Penguins also suffer disturbance from tourists, such as collapsed nesting burrows as people approach, causing them to nest in less suitable areas. When viewing animals in their natural habitat, it is always important to give them the distance and respect that they need and deserve. In addition, penguin eggs are used as a food source in South Africa and the penguins are having trouble keeping up with the demand; the average lifespan for these birds in South Africa is around ten years old (compared to commonly reaching their late twenties when living in human care.) African penguins do not reach sexual maturity until between the ages of four and six years old.
Another factor endangering penguins is commercial fisheries depleting their food supply. If you enjoy eating seafood, ensure that your meals are coming from sustainable sources and not being taken from parts of the ocean where fish stocks are low or endangered. Want to know more about sustainable seafood choices and what to avoid? Seafood Watch has a great consumer guide here where you can look up fisheries by state, find sustainable recipes, and even download a smart phone app!