The African penguin is only found on the southern African coast. The endemic population is at an historic low with the numbers of breeding pairs on southern African islands down to 26000 pairs from an estimated 121 000 breeding pairs in 1956. Over the last three generations, there has been a 50% overall decrease in breeding pairs. Recently, the rate of decline increased from about 1.44 % in 2006 to 2.34% in 2010. The endangered status of these charismatic seabirds, is fast moving from vulnerable to threatened on the IUCN red list.
There are many reasons for the decline of penguins generally. Historically, passing sailors raided islands to kill penguins and seals for lamp-oil. Penguin meat was never popular but the eggs were favoured. It was only in the 1960?s, that penguin egg collection was eventually banned. Guano, or the penguins droppings, used to be scraped from the islands to be used as an agricultural fertilizer. This was devastating to the penguins breeding efforts as they used to burrow into these huge mounds of guano to make their nests which afforded them protection from the sun. Nowadays, parents have to leave their barren nest sites to cool off in the sea, leaving the eggs to the mercy of the sun and kelp gulls that enjoy eating the eggs and the young chicks. Oil spills at sea have also had a major impact on the southern African population as when penguins
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