World Penguin Day 2021 – Keeper Thoughts

April 25, 2021

What is World Penguin Day? For starters, it’s a day for us to acknowledge our love for all things penguin, a day for us to admire this quirky little bird who can’t fly, has a most humorous walk, sounds like an angry donkey, and swims like a torpedo. But it’s also a day for us to acknowledge the sad fact that penguins around the world are in sharp decline and some could potentially disappear in our lifetime. To ignore this part of the story is to resign ourselves to the idea that we can’t do anything about it.

What can we do in Rochester, New York to help save a bird that lives over 8,000 miles away?

One of the most important steps we can take is to support organizations that are on the ground where these penguins live. Here at the Seneca Park Zoo, we have a colony of African Penguins. These penguins can be found at the very southern tip of Africa. While there are a number of organizations working with African penguins, there is one that stands out to us. The Southern African Foundation for Conservation of Coastal Bird, better known as SANCCOB. In their 53-year history, they have treated more than 97,000 seabirds, most of which were African penguins. So, rest assured, as you pay your entry fee, membership dues, or donate to one of our penguin days fund-raisers you are helping to save these amazing birds.

For more information check out their web site here.

What is the biggest threat to the African Penguin?

Over the years, they’ve had to overcome many threats including egg collection for food, guano collection for fertilizer, massive oil spills from shipwrecks, and human encroachment on their nesting site, but these days, their number one threat by far is lack of food!

A combination of commercial over-fishing and changing water temperatures have left the African penguin on the verge of starvation. As adults struggle to feed themselves it becomes harder and harder for them to feed their chicks. Many chicks are left to starve in the nest as parents are forced to make the hard decision of survival.

Photo by Kevin Blakely

This is where SANCCOB steps in. While their legal teams work with local officials to change fishing regulations, their rangers work to remove starving chicks from the nests to be taken to one of SANCCOB’s two rehabilitation facilities. Here they’re fed and cared for until old enough to be released back on the very same beach they were hatched on, thus ensuring the next generation of penguins.

How can we help change fishing behaviors?

Here at the Seneca Park Zoo, we encourage everyone to check out seafoodwatch.org. By downloading the Seafood Watch app, you’ll be able to make sure you’re making sustainable choices when shopping for seafood.

– Kevin Blakely, Zoo Keeper

Photo by Kevin Blakely