African Penguins

Namibia is purported to have some of the most beautiful postage stamps in the world. But what’s more fascinating are the stories behind the artful images they depict—plant and animal life, traditional cultures, history and landmark events. Many people are unfamiliar with Namibia—until they visit on our motorcycle safaris and fall in love with her.

This month we take a look at endangered African Penguins.

African Penguins

stamp penguin jackass - david thorpe 1997 small african penguinsMythical Africa is full of mysteries so it should come as no surprise that the one penguin species that lives here has adapted to warm water. Known also as Jackass Penguins for the braying sounds they use to communicate, these flightless birds live in colonies on Namibia and South Africa’s coast and islands, fed by the nutrient rich water of the Benguela Current.

African penguins can dive under water for up to 2.5 minutes. Their standard culinary fare is anchovies and sardines although they may also eat squid and crustaceans. Their average is height is 60 cm (2 ft) and they weigh up to 3.6 kg (8 lb).

Dense waterproof feathers keep them warm in cold water. Their white belly blends with the light to conceal them from predators from below, like seals and sharks. Their black backs blend with the sea and protect them from predators from above, such as mongooses, gulls, and genets. Unfortunately this natural camouflage has not protected them from man and their numbers have plummeted.

Harvesting of penguin eggs and collection of guano (excrement) started their dramatic decline. Losing the guano layer used for nesting forced them to change their habits and nest under bushes and boulders rather than digging burrows. Consequently, eggs and chicks are more susceptible to heat from the sun and predators like cats and seagulls. Food has become scarce as a result of the activities of commercial fisheries. Oil spills have also contributed to their decline.

African penguins are now considered endangered with a high risk they may become extinct.


Source: Stamps and Stories, Vol. 1, 50 Stories on Namibia’s Postal Stamps, Gondwana Collection Namibia, & NamPost, 2012.