Saturday, January 14, 2012

Penguins on the Rocks

Now that I have been home for a bit, I've had a chance to reflect on my amazing experience in South Africa. It's still bittersweet at this point: I'm happy to be home but would LOVE the chance to go back to Cape Town and the penguins I miss so much!

Pair hanging out (photo by Jake Levenson)
I've settled back into my regular routine which has allowed me to plug through my 1,300 picture! Some of my favorites are of the penguins that can be seen at Boulders Beach, one of two mainland colonies of African penguins. Boulders is unique in that visitors to the colony can get up close to these birds, both along a boardwalk that has people visiting restricted-access nesting areas as well as part of the beach where penguins and humans can intermingle freely! Yup, you could walk right up to a penguin and snap some pictures!

Good advice before walking onto the beach!

Sun for people, shade for penguins
Always educating! (photo by Jake Levenson)

I was able to see lots of penguins, both on the beach itself as well as in the upland area where they rest and have their nests. It was so surreal to see these birds among the trees tucked in between roots and shrubs!
How many penguins can you find?

Penguins live in trees?
Back on the beach, penguins were everywhere! You would find them resting near boulders, on top of boulders, swimming in the water, everywhere! It was hard to remember that these animals are endangered with so many of them around. They didn't seem to mind when you got closer to take some pictures, but they didn't hesitate to give you a stare down when you did get to close for comfort!

Someone is pretty excited...
 While walking through the group, I did see some penguins with metal bracelets. It's possible that these birds had seen some time at SANCCOB, which will band chicks after rehabilitation and before they are released. It helps scientists track the birds after release to see how they are doing. If this bird was a SANCCOB bird, it seems to be doing well, even finding a mate!

A pair of penguins, one banded

Being able to come back to Boulders and observe the penguins helped me feel like the trip came full circle. Having previously released SANCCOB birds at this location and seeing how the wild birds were able to take full advantage of this site gave me a bit of hope for the species. I don't know what the future holds for the African penguin and the Boulders colony, but I do know I am thankful for doing my part to help this species and for SANCCOB and others that work hard to do so as well. I hope that many generations can visit Boulders to see these amazing animals and am glad that I got to witness it first hand! [Another Aquarium educator visited Boulders Beach in 2010 as well.]

On top of the boulders at Boulders (photo by Jake Levenson)


Learn more about the Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds, or SANCCOB and their Penguin Chick Bolstering Project.

Follow the adventures of Jo's co-worker, Paul! Aquarium penguin biologist Paul Leonard was also in South Africa to study and care for African penguins in the Southern Hemisphere! Read about his experiences on the Penguin Blog