Long Island Aquarium’s year-round Penguin Pavilion provides an Atlantean home to our African penguins (Spheniscus demersus). The 800-square foot exhibit provides both land and water features for the birds, as well as hutches in the back wall for shelter, nesting, and breeding. Get a penguin-eyed view of the exhibit from our observation bubble!
Native to Namibia and South Africa, African penguins are adapted to live on land as well as in the sea. A streamlined body shape, dense feathers, and wings modified into flippers allow these birds to dive deep into the sea where they hunt several different types of fish and marine invertebrates. Unfortunately, their numbers are dwindling in the wild. In the early 1900s, the population has been estimated at 1.5 million; today, around 44,000 are thought to remain in the wild. Pollution, hunting, and habitat loss have seriously hindered populations of this now an endangered bird.
The African penguins exhibited here were captive-bred in South Africa and imported illegally into the US. They arrived at the Long Island Aquarium in April 2004 after the US Fish and Wildlife Service reached out to the Aquarium to provide the birds with a new home.
Scientific Name: Spheniscus demersus
Weight: 5-8 pounds.
Height: about 25 inches.
Lifespan: 15-30 years.
Range: Namibia and South Africa
Habitat: rocky South African shorelines
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African Penguins are comfortable in temperate regions like Long Island. They stay cool by swimming, resting in shady areas, and keeping their backs to the sun to shade their feet, flippers, and faces.
Penguins are very strong swimmers, reaching speeds of up to 15 mph in the water.
All of Long Island Aquarium’s original penguins were named after the popular television show, “Seinfeld,” after aquarists became familiar with the particular habits, characteristics, and personality traits of each bird!