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Baby Steps
8.5 x 10
The young penguin depicted here is not standing on snow, but rather a sun-bleached rock on the coast of South Africa. Contrary to popular perception, there are no penguins very far north of the equator, and only a few species occur where there is snow on the continent of Antarctica.

The Black – footed penguin, (Spheniscus demersus ) is the only penguin that breeds on Africa’s coast. Commercial fishing, climate change, pollution and egg collection are factors that have contributed to the decline of this species, but in the year 2000 a disastrous oil spill took a huge toll on the population. These birds have since been listed as endangered.

 Recently, I had the privilege of viewing two juvenile Black-footed penguins that were hatched at the Toronto Zoo as part of a special breeding program. The youngsters were just starting to get their adult plumage, still carrying soft baby down on the head and shoulders. 

It’s no easy feat to breed penguins in captivity and hatchlings often need to be hand raised if abandoned by the parents. Breeding programs such as this are small steps towards hopefully one day increasing colony numbers of this rare African bird in the wild.