This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Learn more

Skip to main content

Talk to an expert 1-800-242-2434 Lines now closed

User menu

Penguin Conservation: Great Egg-spectations

3 min read

Updated 01 March 2023

African Penguins, De Hoop Opstal.
Picture of Chris McIntyre

By Chris McIntyre

Managing Director

*A version of this article originally appeared in the March 2023 Bush Telegraph newsletter. You can read our recent newsletters and sign-up to receive these in your inbox on our Bush Telegraph newsletter page.

Even the least enthusiastic birdwatcher cannot help but be excited by spotting a penguin. There is something delightful in their monochrome looks and quirky, comical movements. They enchant us on Christmas cards and Hollywood has turned them into countless endearing characters: the tuxedo-clad waiters in Mary Poppins, the social misfit in Happy Feet, the cool dude in Surf’s Up! and the scheming SWAT team in Madagascar. They make us laugh and we love them in return.

Their off-screen prospects have not been so positive though. Overfishing, pollution, habitat loss and climate change are major threats to penguin species around the world, including the African penguin (Spheniscus demersus). Most commonly seen on South Africa’s Western Cape, their situation has become pretty dire: a shocking 60% decline in numbers in the last 30 years and potential extinction of the species being discussed in scientific circles.

Scientists have been working on penguin conservation in South Africa for years, and it’s known that penguins are more likely to choose a colony if it appears that other penguins are already breeding there. As a result, scientists had to make the De Hoop site appear to be an active breeding colony. As we shared in our article back in October ‘21, BirdLife South Africa, CapeNature and the Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds have tried numerous techniques over the last decade to lure breeding penguins to the fish-rich shoreline at De Hoop Nature Reserve: installing life-like decoy penguins on the rocks, playing round-the-clock penguin calls from speakers and installing a predator-proof fence around the proposed colony.

Abandoned eggs or chicks from the Stony Point Nature Reserve in Betty’s Bay were hand-reared by SANCCOB (the Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds) – an impressive non-profit organisation spearheading seabird rescue, rehabilitation and return-to-the wild initiatives. Released whilst still young, to imprint on the De Hoop site, the penguins head to sea for their first few years before ultimately selecting a breeding location. Over the course of 2021–22, 148 juvenile penguins were released at the reserve.

The years of patient conservation work were set to continue, until a surprise recent development: a pair of African penguin chicks has been spotted at this new colony, much earlier than anticipated! The first hatchlings of this new colony have brought a glimmer of hope for the African penguin’s future and, whilst it will take time for the colony to grow to a size significant enough to meaningfully contribute to the species’ survival, this is a huge milestone for the project.

If African penguins are on your wildlife wishlist, check out the Bontebok Self-Drive Safari to South Africa, which combines time in Cape Town, from where you can visit the Boulder’s Beach penguin colony, with the De Hoop Nature Reserve and the glorious Garden Route National Park.

If you’ve been inspired and want to find out more, give us a call or enquire now to speak to an expert.

Login to Expert Africa

Sign in with password

Sign in with email link

New to Expert Africa? Create an account

Forgotten your details?

It's free & quick to set up

  • Save your wish-list
  • Send us an enquiry
  • Pay online for your trip
  • Subscribe to our newsletter
  • Give us feedback on your trip
  • Full site benefits of the site

Need some help? Talk to our team