African penguin in exhibit

African Penguin

Scientific Name

Spheniscus demersus

Class

Aves

Order

Sphenisciformes

Range

The coast of South Africa and Namibia

Habitat

Burrows, rock crevices, and shrubs on rocky and sandy shoreline

Estimated Wild Population

80,000
African penguin in exhibit
IUCN Conservation Status: Endangered IUCN Conservation Status: Endangered

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Physical Description

African penguins are a smaller penguin species, standing about 18 inches tall and weighing around seven pounds. They use strong, flipper-like wings to propel themselves through the water and webbed feet to steer. Dense bones help them conserve energy while swimming, and backward-facing spines across their tongue help them catch prey. While in water, their iconic black-and-white plumage camouflages them from prey and predators alike: from above, their black feathers fade into the ocean, and from below, their white feathers blend into the sky.

Interesting Fact 1

Young African penguins have gray-blue feathers that darken to black within three years after hatching.

Interesting Fact 2

Mating penguins often stay together for life, with breeding pairs in a flock producing offspring at various times. This leads to colonies having eggs and chicks at various stages of development.

Interesting Fact 3

African penguins have several heat-regulating adaptations, including patches of exposed skin near their eyes through which blood circulates and cools down, as well as special muscles that push feathers outward to release trapped heat.

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Species Survival Plan®

We cooperate with other members of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums to manage the zoo population of this species through a Species Survival Plan®.

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Saving Animals From Exctinction

AZA SAFE: Saving Animals From Extinction focuses the collective expertise within AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums and leverages their audiences to save species.

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Commitment to Care

Lincoln Park Zoo prioritizes individual well-being over everything else. Guided by scientific research, staff and volunteers work to provide the best welfare outcomes for each individual in the zoo’s care.

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Wish List

The Wish List is full of one-of-a-kind items for the zoo’s animals, including nutritious snacks and enrichment items to keep them active and healthy. 

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Wildlife face many daunting challenges—some global, like planet-wide climate change, and some that affect individuals, like an animal ingesting plastic—but now is not the time to despair. None of these problems are too big for us to come together and solve.

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