This is ironic considering the fact that most South Africans were completely delighted at the idea that the African Penguin has made a comeback, when it was so close to extinction just a couple of years ago. Back in the 1980s, the birds were practically non-existent on the African mainland, and were originally found only on the rocky islands off the shores of Cape Town.
When the birds started to multiply and eventually take up residents in the coast of main land South Africa, conservationists were practically delighted and the tourist industry boomed. The penguins were protected with fences and viewing platforms to allow tourists to view them without interfering with the animals directly, and various restaurants and gift shops opened around town, bolstered by the sudden onset of eco-tourism.
However, the same cannot be said for the residents of Betty’s Bay, a coastal town located just east of Cape Town. The penguins in this area have become particularly numerous, and the fences that originally kept the birds out have fallen into disrepair. They animals are now starting to invade private suburban homes, leaving bird droppings everywhere and disturbing the peace with their loud calls. African penguins are known for their harsh, loud calls that have been likened to the braying of donkeys.
The African Penguin, which is scientifically known as Spheniscus demersus has been around the area for quite some time now, breeding over 25 islands off the coast of South Africa. They can be found on the mainland of South Africa and Namibia too, including Betty’s Bay, Boulder’s Beach, and Robben Island.
The birds used to be limited to the outermost islands of Cape Town, but an eastward shift in their prey has forced them to migrate to the surrounding areas. They have since then appeared to be thriving, bolstering the tourist trades in the areas. However, even if the birds seem to be getting out of hand in these areas, the fact remains that they are still highly endangered.
The African Penguin only has 20,000 breeding pairs left in the wild, spread thin over just a handful of islands. The animals are endemic to the area so they cannot be found anywhere else in the world.
In addition to their small numbers, the African Penguin is also in sharp decline, having lost about 60 percent of its population in the past 30 years.
The animals found off the southern tip of Africa are particularly vulnerable, and their population is shrinking despite massive conservationist intervention. Even if they provide shelter for the animals to protect their eggs and chicks from seagulls, the birds are still quickly disappearing. The IUCN (World Conservation Union) has now appended its status on the Red List of Endangered Species and shifted it from “vulnerable” to “endangered”.