4th Annual Penguin Waddle


Words: Steven J Brown

The 4th annual Penguin Promises Waddle along a 120km section of the Cape coastline began on Monday the 10th March 2014 in Gansbaai and is scheduled to end on the 15th March 2014 in Simons Town. The group of 16 penguin enthusiasts tackling the 120km walk consists of animal keepers from around the country. Four uShaka Sea World staff are amongst the walkers who are calling on all South Africans to commit to making a change in their daily lives that will effect positive change in the environment.

The Penguin Promises campaign was hatched at uShaka Sea World in 2011, in collaboration with the Animal Keepers Association of Africa (AKAA). Unlike many campaigns that ask for money, this collaborative campaign asks people to make a ‘Promise to the Penguins’. With the tag line ‘We don’t want your money honey, we want your love’ - the waddle is not a fundraising campaign but focuses on raising awareness about the plight of the African penguin.

According to the 2010 IUCN Red Data List, the African penguin (Spheniscus demersus) is heading for extinction. African penguin numbers in the wild have declined by up to 90% over the last 100 years. The 2012 census done in South African indicates that we have lost over 1500 pairs in a year. The latest research indicates that there are less than 25 000 breeding pairs of penguins left in the wild. It is these facts that led to the species being declared as Endangered.

uShaka Sea World staff member Tracy Shaw is amongst the waddlers and although a little nervous ahead of the daunting 120kms walk, is determined to complete the distance over the next 5 days. Penguins have been her passion since she was in primary school – their resilience and sheer will to survive and care for their offspring astounds and inspires her. She completed both her honours and masters studying African Penguins and is determined to do whatever she can to stop the alarming decline in African penguin numbers.

She believes that working together is the only way we can make a difference and is encouraging the public to eat only sustainably sourced seafood and stop using single use plastic bags. To find out more about the campaign and to get ideas on what you can do to lower your environment footprint visit www.penguinpromises.com

In the picture is Tracy Shaw (Animal Behaviourist uShaka Sea World) and Varsha Naidu (Marine Educator uShaka Sea World) with Dee who at age 33 is the old resident uShaka Marine World African Penguin.