African Penguins Face Extinction Within Decades
African Penguins Face Extinction Within Decades. Photo: Reuters Keyframe

African penguins, whose populations have rapidly decline over the last century, may go extinct in the next few decades, according to experts in South Africa.

Listed as endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN), the African penguin population has been plummeting due to multiple human factors, from industrial fishing to fuel spills.

Katta (Katrin) Ludynia, research manager at the South African Coastal Birds Conservation Foundation (SANCCOB), told Anadolu Agency that only 2% of the species’ early-20th century population remains.

“There were millions of penguins in the region at the beginning of the 20th century. The 2021 data shows that we only have 10,000 breeding pairs left in South Africa,” said Ludynia.

“This decline is so dramatic that our modelings show that they could disappear in just a few decades,” she warned.

Noting that the main reason for the decline was a lack of fish that the penguins feed on, she said this situation was the result of overfishing of sardines and anchovies, which are the main prey of the flightless birds.

Climate change, fuel leaks, underwater noise pollution caused by marine traffic, and infectious disease are other important factors contributing to fall in population, she added.


Rehabilitation manager Romy Klusener said the SANCCOB facility in Cape Town has been working for years to rehabilitate penguins and return them to the wild.

Klusener said that eggs from unsafe nesting areas needed about three months of rehabilitation until they hatch and are released. This period can extend up to one year depending on whether the hatchling is injured or weak, she added.

When deciding to release a penguin, she explained, they consider its weight at various ages, as well as whether its feathers have become waterproof, which is another important factor, and so are floated in water three times a day.

Ronnis Daniels, a resource development manager at the SANCCOB, said many more volunteers would be needed to rescue the penguins.

“Those who want to save African penguins can join our six-week international volunteer program. Also, unqualified ones can join our three-month internship program,” said Daniels, inviting people all around the world to work as a volunteer.

She said those who participate in the internship program must take a firm stand to protect the African penguin species.

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