An African Penguin Visits Rectory

Photos by Ms. Megan Bard of Rectory's Communications Department.

On January 6th, 2020, two workers from Mystic Aquarium in Connecticut came to Rectory School, and they brought a small, cute African penguin with them. Then they told Rectory students some interesting facts about penguins and what Mystic Seaport is doing to help them. African penguins are included on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) “red list” of endangered species. According to the Mystic Aquarium,  there are fewer than 40,000 of them in the world today. The reasons for this are overfishing, oil spills, plastic pollution, habitat loss, and climate change. Now workers at the aquarium are helping African penguins by participating in the Species Survival Plan, and they are currently taking care of a colony of 31 penguins at the aquarium. (https//:www.mystic aquarium.org)

The African penguin (Spheniscus demersus) grows to be about 67 to 70 centimeters tall (24 – 28 inches) and to weigh between 2 and 3.5 kilograms (4.9 – 7.7 lbs). Their chests have black stripes and a pattern of unique black spots. An interesting fact about African penguins is that they have pink glands above their eyes, which become a darker pink as the penguin gets hotter; these glands are used for cooling down the penguin. The males are larger than the females and have larger beaks. African penguins are usually found within 40 kilometers ( 25 miles) of the shore, where they dive into the sea and hunt for fish and squid at a top speed of 20 kilometers per hour (12.5 miles per hour). 

African penguins are only found on the south-western coast of Africa, where they migrate north along the African coast. The female penguins usually lay 1 or 2 eggs at a time; some of the eggs will never hatch, and some chicks will die shortly after hatching due to various reasons. The low birth rate could also be a reason that these penguins are declining in numbers. A very interesting fact that we learned from the Mystic Aquarium workers is that when you look at a penguin, you cannot tell if it is a male or a female because they are all physically the same. The only way to learn the sex of the penguin is when/if it becomes pregnant, which doesn’t happen until the penguin is about 5 or 6 years old (if it’s a female, that is).

We are very happy that the workers at Mystic Aquarium are trying to save these African penguins from extinction. In addition to their cuteness (which you can see by viewing our photo gallery), if they become extinct, it will interfere with the balance of nature. All living creatures are important, so we need to take care of them and their environment.