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Penguins are flightless birds native to the southern hemisphere, found primarily in Antarctica, South America, Africa, and the Galápagos Islands. Known for their distinctive black and white plumage, waddling gait, and aquatic prowess, penguins are highly adapted to life in the water. They use their flipper-like wings to propel themselves through the ocean, where they hunt for fish, squid, and krill. Penguins are also well adapted to life on land, forming large colonies known as rookeries where they breed, molt, and raise their young.


African Penguin

Native to the coastlines of southern Africa, African Penguins are also known as Black-footed Penguins. These penguins have distinctive black and white plumage, with a black stripe across their chest and a unique pattern of spots on their bellies. African Penguins are highly adapted to life in the water, using their flipper-like wings to propel themselves through the ocean as they hunt for fish, squid, and other small prey. At the zoo, visitors can observe these endearing birds swimming gracefully in their specially designed habitat and learn about their natural history and behaviors. Visit the Penguins of the Little Rock Zoo at Penguin Pointe. Guest are invited to witness the charm of these penguins during daily feedings, held twice a day at 9:30 AM and 3:30 PM. 

The Laura P. Nichols Penguin Pointe, opening in 2011 at the Little Rock Zoo, provides a specialized habitat for South African penguins, a species vulnerable to extinction. The habitat features amenities such as a heated pool and replica rock bluffs, designed to mimic the penguins' natural environment and nesting area, creating the perfect environment for their health and well-being. This realistic setting is very important because these penguins are vulnerable to extinction; the simulation of their natural habitat will aid in the Zoo's breeding efforts.

  • These hardy little penguins can hold their breath over 2 minutes and dive over 400 feet deep!
  • Not all penguins live where it’s cold—African penguins live at the southern tip of Africa. 
  • Most other penguins lay their eggs out in the open, but African penguins have a different approach. They dig burrows to lay their eggs so they are protected from the sun’s heat. 
  • Penguins are birds, feathers and all. Those feathers insulate them against frigid water. Their specialized wings help them fly efficiently in the ocean.
  • Penguins swim through the water at up to 15 miles per hour— faster than many fish can swim!
  • African penguins have a loud call that sounds like a donkey braying!

Like many other penguin species, African penguins are endangered, with approximately 80% of their population lost over the past five decades due to various factors.

Historically hunting, habitat destruction, and oil spills have all contributed to the decline of African penguin populations. However, the greatest current threat stems from the depletion of their main food source, sardines, caused by overfishing and changing ocean climates. This scarcity of prey has led to struggles for survival among African penguins, further endangering their already fragile population.

The Little Rock Zoo is actively engaged in conservation efforts to protect African penguins and their habitats. Through partnerships with organizations such as the Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds (SANCCOB), the zoo works to address the challenges faced by these penguins, including oil spills and low fish availability. Collaborative efforts focus on rescuing, rehabilitating, and releasing penguins that have been impacted by oil spills, abandoned, or injured. Please join our efforts to secure a future for this species by donating to our conservation fund.

Penguin Experience

Want a more immersive experience? Experience the awe of African penguins first hand with a keeper and dive into their unique stories with a Penguin Experience.

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