The biggest ever worldwide waddle on 14 October 2023 to highlight the looming extinction of African penguins is going to span the globe, with #NotOnOurWatch events planned in countries from the USA to France, South Africa, Mozambique and Japan.
All of South Africa’s major cities are hosting big waddles for International African Penguin Awareness Day. The Two Oceans Aquarium in Cape Town will be waddling at the V&A Waterfront and has helped to arrange a waddle, in association with Marine Dynamics and I Am Water, from Simon’s Town to Boulders Beach – the home of about 9% of the African penguin population. uShaka Sea World is going large in Durban with the Point parkrun, face-painting for the kids and big-screen videos. The Johannesburg Zoo and the Penguin Protection Parade at Emmarentia Dam have South Africa’s largest city covered, while SANCCOB is waddling in Gqeberha and the National Zoological Garden in Pretoria will be awarding prizes and giving penguin talks during its zoo-based waddle.
“The support has been tremendous and heart-warming and this is only the beginning,’’ said Dr Judy Mann, the South African-based President of the International Zoo Educators Association, Executive Head of Strategy at the Two Oceans Aquarium Foundation and a founder of the #NotOnOurWatch African penguin survival campaign. “Conservation is hard work and sometimes it feels like not enough people care. But with this global waddle, it’s clear that there’s a ground swell of support and people really do care about the plight of the African penguin.’’
The #NotOnOurWatch (#NOOW) campaign is barely a year old. It was conceptualised by scientists and conservationists to raise awareness and encourage the South African government to enact laws and protections to safeguard against endemic African penguins from going extinct in the wild in just 12 years. Their numbers have dropped 99% in just 100 years. The importance of this movement has been recognised by UNESCO and the 14 October waddles have been endorsed by the United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development as a Decade Activity.
“African penguins are the proverbial canaries in the coal mine. Two thirds of the penguin species in the world are threatened and the likes of South America’s Humboldt penguin is starting to face the same problems as the African penguin – dwindling food stocks, habitat destruction, climate change,’’ said Katie Propp, Chief Operations Officer at Penguins International in Colorado, USA. “If we can fight hard enough to stave off the African penguins’ extinction, then there’s hope for other species.’’
In Colorado a virtual event for the Africa penguins was held on 10 October and later a `Waddle and Wine.’ Elsewhere in North America there will be waddles at The Florida Aquarium in Tampa, with more than 1,000 people registered for its events, Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta, the Louisville Zoo in Kentucky, the National Aviary in Pittsburgh and Lion Country Safaris in Loxahatchee, Florida. The Ripley’s aquariums in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, Toronto and Myrtle Beach, South Carolina will also be raising awareness. Then there’s the likes of Les Terres de Nataé in Pont-Scorff, France and Miyazaki City Phoenix Zoo in Japan.
These are just some of the big names. Organisations holding small waddles and events include Animal Ocean and the Sentinel Ocean Alliance in Hout Bay, Ocean Pledge in Cape Town, Secret Sunrise Durban, Century City parkrun, Divetek and Ngiri Safaris in Pretoria, Siso Dwana and SeaXplore and Sharklife in Sodwana, the Dyer Island Conservation Trust in Gansbaai, the Betty’s Bay Conservancy, the Betty’s Bay parkrun and the Kogelburg Biosphere.
For more information, visit the campaign’s website.