Every year on April 25th, coinciding with the annual migration of Adélie penguins living in Antarctica, we celebrate World Penguin Day!
Right around this time Adelie penguins migrate an average of about 8,100 miles during the year as they follow the sun from their breeding colonies to winter foraging grounds (remember they’re in the Southern hemisphere) and back again. Here at the Academy we display a different species of penguin, the African penguin, which doesn’t migrate but we love taking this opportunity to not only express our admiration for these lovable birds but also to consider our responsibility towards them. As of today eleven of the world’s eighteen penguin species are considered to be either vulnerable or endangered. This means that, if no measures are taken to protect them, there is a real risk that population levels for these species will not be sustainable and extinction will follow. This looms very large on our minds here because one unfortunate member of the endangered species list is the African penguin.
Penguins are vulnerable to overfishing of their food sources, climate change, pollution (especially oil spills), introduced predators, and human encroachment on their breeding grounds. It is only by protecting their environment that we can ensure the future of penguins, which are now understood to be an important indicator of the health of our planet. We need to recognize that the fundamental changes affecting penguins will one day, without a doubt, affect our own lives.
So let’s all take a moment on Wednesday to appreciate how fascinating this family of flightless birds is and why we need to preserve their natural environment. Some ideas? Come visit our colony here at the Academy and learn something new about penguin biology or behavior. Wear black and white or even a tuxedo in honor of countershading–dark backs and white undersides. Watch a movie or read a book about penguins. Order some wine from Penguin Bay Winery. Even better make a donation to an organization like SANCCOB which does a tremendous amount of work to conserve and protect wild African penguins.
Most importantly have a great World Penguin Day and do something, anything, penguinish!