This Saturday, October 8th, is African Penguin Awareness Day!
Exciting new research by Daniel Ksepka and Daniel Thomas shows that at least three species of penguins have independently colonized Africa in the past. Today only one of those species, Spheniscus demersus, survives. Unfortunately, the future does not look very bright for them either making a day like this more important than ever. Population levels for this species in the wild have plummeted by over 90% in the past hundred years and they are now considered to be endangered, meaning that there is indeed a real risk they won’t be around for much longer in the wild at all.
Devoting a day to them should mean devoting ourselves to learning as much as we can about these charismatic critters and pledging to treat our planet as best we can. Penguins are generally considered to be a good sentinel species for the ocean environment. This means that their relative well-being is a good indicator of the health of the overall ecosystem; the challenges facing penguins are not really unique to penguins. They suffer from over-arching problems like over-fishing, climate change, habitat loss, introduced predators and, particularly for the African penguin, oil pollution. To quote the eminent Lloyd Spencer Davis, “Saving penguins is not really about saving penguins; it is about saving every living thing–all of us.”
Come celebrate with the Academy’s own penguin colony and make your own African penguin craft in the Naturalist Center on October 7th and 8th:
There will also be a Specimen Spotlight on African penguins in front of the Project Lab at 11:30 am on Friday, October 7th.
Long live the African penguin!