ATLANTA (October 16, 2015) - On Saturday, Oct. 17, Georgia Aquarium will be celebrating African Penguin Awareness Day and this special penguin species. While guests can enjoy observing these birds in the Aquarium’s Georgia-Pacific Cold Water Quest gallery, they can also learn more about these unique animals and the Aquarium’s efforts to conserve them.

African Penguin Awareness Day will not just be celebrated at Georgia Aquarium, but at zoos and aquariums around the world. The Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds (SANCCOB) will be hosting their annual Penguin Festival in Simon’s Town, South Africa, to raise awareness about this species. Georgia Aquarium has partnered with SANCCOB to provide support and staff as a part of their African penguin research and conservation efforts.

African penguins are one of five penguin species to be listed as endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List. In addition to partnering with SANCCOB, Georgia Aquarium is a part of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ (AZA) African penguin Species Survival Plan (SSP). Georgia Aquarium has welcomed 24 penguin chicks over four breeding seasons as a part of this breeding program, which helps to produce a healthy and genetically diverse population. African penguins were also recently identified as one of ten focus species of the AZA’s Saving Animals From Extinction (SAFE) program. Threats to these animals in their natural habitat on the southernmost coast of Africa include oil spills, habitat degradation due to guano and egg harvesting, and entanglement in marine debris. Rising ocean temperatures have also caused fish that African penguins forage for food to move farther away from shore, leading to an increased number of abandoned chicks on shore due to parents taking longer to return with food. 

“We work with these animals every day, and one of our main goals is to help guests visiting the aquarium develop an appreciation for penguins and other marine animals on behalf of the people coming to visit them here at the Aquarium,” said senior director of zoological operations and animal training, mammals and birds, Dennis Christen. “We want [guests] to walk away with an awareness of how important these animals are not only in their natural to the marine environment, but also to our ability to continue to educate and inspire people to care about and help protect them.”

Georgia Aquarium is home to over 50 African penguins, each unique in their own way, from distinctive markings to preference for certain trainers. Aquarium training and animal care specialists spend a great deal of time with these animals to form relationships with them, which in turn makes the penguins comfortable with them. This particular penguin is also known for emitting a loud call, similar to a donkey; these vocalizations are also unique, depending on what is being communicated.

To learn more about African penguins, visit Georgia Aquarium’s Animal Guide, or watch them in real-time on our new webcam. Follow Georgia Aquarium on Facebook, Twitter and Periscope for more penguin facts and trainer interviews during African Penguin Awareness Day. 

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ABOUT GEORGIA AQUARIUM

Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that contains more than 10 million gallons of water and has the largest collection of aquatic animals in North America. Georgia Aquarium’s mission is to be a scientific institution that entertains and educates, features exhibits and programs of the highest standards, and offers engaging and exciting guest experiences that promote the conservation of aquatic biodiversity throughout the world. Georgia Aquarium is an accredited member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums and the Alliance of Marine Mammal Parks and Aquariums. For additional information, visit www.georgiaaquarium.org.