Celebrate the tuxedoed birds on 25 April 2015
Cape Town, 24 April 2015 – Who doesn’t love penguins? With their fancy-dress feathers, whimsical walk and humorous habits, penguins have captivated the minds, hearts and imaginations of both young and old. Every year on 25 April the international community comes together to celebrate World Penguin Day.
The 25th of April marks the annual northwards migration of Adélie Penguins after spending the summer months on their breeding grounds in Antarctica. Like clockwork, the majority of the colony dives into the frigid waters and heads north to packed sea ice where they will overwinter in warmer conditions and fatten up for the breeding season in spring. This behaviour was first noticed by scientists working at the McMurdo Station in Antarctica, and the colony’s departure on this day every year ignited the notion of celebrating these flightless birds. Although there is no clear record on exactly when World Penguin Day first began, international festivities have been traced back to 2007. The day is used to create awareness and educate people on all species of penguins, and it can also be used as an excuse to don one’s best penguin outfit in celebration!
Penguins are not only adorable and comical; they are also extraordinary animals, evolved to survive in extreme habitats. All penguins breed in the Southern Hemisphere, and inhabit a range of habitats – from the Emperor Penguin on the ice sheets of Antarctica to the African Penguin on the sunny beaches and offshore islands of South Africa and Namibia. “They are one of our most popular birds, and it is alarming to see that the populations of all species are dwindling,” states Christina Hagen, Birdlife South Africa’s Coastal Seabird Conservation Manager. Of the 18 species of penguins, four are listed as Near Threatened, six as Vulnerable and five as Endangered on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. It is therefore crucial that action is taken to raise awareness and conserve these iconic birds.
BirdLife South Africa is actively involved in the conservation of the endangered African Penguin, the only penguin on the African continent. The current African Penguin population is at about 14% of its 1950s level, due to historical egg harvesting, guano collection and overfishing which leads to lack of food availability for the penguins. “BirdLife South Africa is currently involved in various projects, with the outcome aimed at incorporating penguin conservation into fisheries management,” Christina explains. “This includes an island closures project, satellite tracking, establishing a new colony, micro-chipping penguins and addressing issues at policy level.”
So how can you celebrate World Penguin Day? Support your local penguin conservation initiatives, wear penguin supportive clothing and jewellery, read up about penguins or even just do a little waddle during the day! “If the international community works together we can reverse the decreasing population trends,” says Christina. “By creating awareness or donating to BirdLife South Africa, you can make a contribution to BirdLife South Africa’s work and make a real difference to the fate of the African Penguin.”