Don't harass the penguins
By Liz Clarke
If you are ever on Jeopardy and the final answer is: "A country in which one can see both lions AND penguins in their natural habitat," the correct question is: "What is South Africa?".
I wouldn't have known this had it not been for the 2010 World Cup, but I have seen BOTH on half-day excursions during my time here.
The lion-sighting came a few weeks back, at a Lion Park about an hour northwest of Johannesburg, where a group of us went on a tour and saw several prides of lions and had the magical experience of petting baby lion cubs.
The penguin-sighting was this morning--hundreds of them, in fact--at Boulders Bay, a breathtakingly beautiful penguin sanctuary at the base of Simon's Town on the Cape Peninsula's coast, about an hour southeast of Cape Town.
What we saw were African Penguins (also known as Jackass Penguins because of their donkey-like braying). In fact, we saw an entire colony of African Penguins, which are smaller than the ones in the movies. And unlike the lion cubs we petted, they weren't all napping. Some were swimming and splashing among the waves. Others were sunning on rocks. Some waddled up and down the dunes. Some nested. And one scurried past with twigs in his beak, on his way to build something.
The African Penguins is considered a vulnerable species; its population has plunged from about 1.5 million in 1910 to 150,000 today, largely because of rampant harvesting of penguin eggs. It enjoys eating squid, anchovies and pilchards (a type of fish). The colony at Boulders Bay is thriving, about 3,000 strong, because the area is looked after by South Africa's Navy, based nearby. It also helps that the penguins' brushy environment is protected from tourists, who must walk along boardwalks constructed above the sand to watch and photograph them. And there are rules, spelled out on signs and in the brochure: No littering, no dogs, no collecting plants or shells, no smoking, no alcohol and no harassing of the penguins.
July 6, 2010; 9:16 AM ET
Categories: 2010 World Cup , South Africa | Tags: 2010 World Cup, Cape Town, penguins
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