Jackass/African Penguin Colony of South Africa’s Overberg

Jackass Penguins or African Penguins are a species of flightless bird found only on the southern African coast. Colonies of African Penguins are located on several offshore islands and nests can be found in only three spots of South Africa's mainland. One of these areas is Stony Point at Betty's Bay in the Overberg. It is therefore vital that colonies of Jackass Penguins are protected.

Stony Point’s first African Penguin nest was discovered in 1982. The Municipality, recognizing the importance of conservation of the area set-up a fence along with a viewing platform for visitors to peek in on the lives of these fascinating birds. The best time to spot penguins here is in the early morning or in the evening especially between the months of April and June.

The Jackass Penguin received its name due to the loud braying sound it utters, similar to that of a donkey. A species fit for survival, these penguins have managed to survive poachers, oil spills and lessening food stocks due to over-fishing. African or Jackass Penguins become sexually mature between the ages of 2 and 4 years. They are said to mate form life and keep returning to the same nest each year. Breeding takes place from February through to October. Originally Jackass Penguins would nest in guano, however much of this was destroyed in the past and today the create burrows in the sand. The nests of the penguins are carefully lined with feathers and plant matter. Parents take turns on the nest each going out to forage whilst the other incubates. In about 38 to 41 days the eggs hatch and the parents provide them with sustenance (regurgitated fish) for some 11 weeks thereafter.

Though Jackass Penguins cannot fly, they are perfectly adapted for speeding through the ocean waters. In fact, their torpedo shaped bodies carry them up to speeds of 20km/h. They will also dive to 100 m in search of prey, though they usually stick around 35m. Living for 20 to 25 years, African Penguins are a remarkable species and you would enjoy watching their antics on the shore. Keep in mind though that the African Penguin is listed in the Red Data Book as a Vulnerable species and deserves the utmost respect.

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