The African Penguin (Spheniscus demersus) is endemic to Southern Africa and the only penguin species to nest on our mainland. Vagrants of other species are occasionally seen off our coast but are very rare. Once abundant in the region, African Penguin numbers have declined dramatically and the IUCN now lists the species as Endangered.
The University of Cape Town is very involved with penguin research on Robben Island (where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for years). The island hosts the second largest African Penguin breeding colony and is also an important breeding site for other seabird species. So it was a treat for me to be invited to set up camera-traps on the island. The birds are nesting currently and the aim was to get some insights into their nocturnal movements.
On Robben Island the penguin nests are either shallow depressions under low-hanging vegetation or in artificial nest boxes.
I think penguins are pretty cute. It's fortunate, for research purposes, that no two individuals are exactly alike. They all have unique spot patterns and many have been fitted with numbered flipper bands over the years.They are curious but nervous of anything unusual in their surroundings which makes for easy camera-trapping opportunities.
Their breeding success is improved if they use the artificial nest boxes but it was pleasing to see both eggs and chicks at many nesting sites.
I'm pleased that I don't have to analyze the many thousands of images that the cameras obtained (Good luck Kate, and thanks!). Instead I'm happy just to smile at these photos of penguins going about their normal business.
For more info on the penguin research being done on Robben Island look at: