What do you picture when you see a penguin? Snow, icecaps, chilly weather? That’s not the usual scenery for African penguins! These unique penguins are found on sandy beaches along the southernmost coast of Africa, and thrive in temperate climates. At Georgia Aquarium, we celebrate our own African penguins for African Penguin Awareness Day on Saturday, Oct. 13. We invite you to come observe these birds in our Georgia Pacific Cold Water Quest Gallery, where you can learn more about these endangered animals and how we can work together to help conserve them for future generations.
We proudly care for more than 50 African penguins here at the Aquarium, each with their own unique traits. You might remember one penguin chick in particular from our first Aquarium Love Stories episode earlier this year – Bakari! This young male penguin was the second chick to hatch in 2018 and had a difficult start to life after his intestines were born outside of his body. Bakari in Swahili means “the one who will succeed,” and he did just that. After going through emergency surgery, Bakari gained his strength and has grown into a thriving penguin. He went from being the smallest chick that hatched last nesting season to the largest juvenile of the group. He enjoys spending time with his trainers, eating silversides and can often be found displaying courtship behaviors when people are around.
Bakari is an inspiration, especially for those who have helped him grow and succeed. He has waddled his way into our hearts, and through his challenging start to life, we are able to take what we’ve learned at the Aquarium to the field to help the African penguin species as a whole.
Over the past 30 years, the wild African penguin population has declined more than 60 percent due to oil spills, habitat degradation and food shortages from fisheries. African penguins are sadly listed as endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List, which make our efforts at the Aquarium extremely important for helping penguins in the wild.
We have proudly been a conservation partner with the Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds (SANCCOB), a hands-on rehabilitation center in South Africa that works to conserve and protect South Africa’s sea birds, including endangered African penguins like Bakari. Our work with SANCCOB not only helps us gain a better understanding for the care of our African penguins, but it is also crucial in providing solutions to current conservation challenges.