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African Penguins

African Penguins


Southwest coast of Africa, surrounding islands

Conservation Status


Plentiful African Penguin Facts

While they may be slow on land, African penguins can swim 12 mph and dive up to 400 feet when hunting for fish.

You might be surprised to learn that African penguins don’t live in cold climates. While all penguins live in the southern hemisphere, most penguins live in warm or temperate climates, not chilly Antarctica!

African penguins live in a very similar climate to Dallas, which made us a great location to test out the artificial nests.

Challenges in the Wild

Overfishing. When commercial fishermen take away food supplies near their habitats, penguins are forced to swim farther and farther to find food and feed their offspring. The long journeys for food make them easier targets for predators like seals.

Pollution. Plastic pollution in our oceans pose serious threats to African penguins, who end up mistaking plastic for food or consuming contaminated food sources.

Nesting habitat loss. Penguins naturally lay their eggs in nests made of guano (seabird droppings) that provides perfect insulation and predator protection. However, humans took the guano from the beaches for fertilizer, leaving the penguins without a safe place to raise their young.

Dallas Zoo Saving African Penguins

The Dallas Zoo supports these amazing conservation organizations:

African Penguin Nesting Project: The Dallas Zoo is leading the effort to save the last 1% of African penguins along with the Association of Zoos & Aquariums’ Saving Animals From Extinction (SAFE) program. Bird Supervisor Kevin Graham has designed an artificial nest to give penguins a safe place to nest and raise their chicks. He and other Dallas Zoo staff members travel to South Africa each year to install them along the coastline. In December 2019, the team installed an impressive 150 nests on Bird Island, home to one of the largest breeding colonies of African penguins anywhere in the world.
SANCCOB: The Dallas Zoo also supports the South African Federation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds (SANCCOB), an organization that rescues, rehabilitates, and releases ill, injured, abandoned, and oiled African penguins and other sea birds. This gives African penguins impacted by pollution the chance to get back on their feet and thrive.

You Can Help Save African Penguins in the Wild

Buy a Dallas Zoo membership to help save African penguins in the wild.

Always choose sustainable seafood. (Download the Seafood Watch app to easily identify sustainable options.)

Reduce plastic use! Choose a reusable grocery bag, and ditch single-use plastic straws.