EAZA Ex Situ Programme (EEP)

African penguin

(Spheniscus demersus)

 Alex Huiberse
Institution:   Artis Zoo

EAZA Member Area

Artis logo

IUCN Red List status

IUCN Red List EN


Programme roles

Direct Conservation icon  Insurance
There are projected threats mostly related to overfishing and potential oil spills which may cause a sudden decrease in the wild population. An important percentage of the global African penguin population is currently kept ex situ. But, currently the South African authorities do not consider the need to release birds, as there are birds available in range which would be prioritized for that purpose. Furthermore, before any potential release it is important to ensure the availability of food for the animals which at the moment is not possible due to the impact of overfishing in the African penguin feeding grounds. Nevertheless, if there would be an oil spill, the European ex situ population would most likely be needed to support the in range ex situ population. Given the current decline of the wild populations of African penguins, the insurance role is most relevant for this penguin species.

This role will have as aim to encourage ex situ research which will benefit in and ex situ populations. For many research questions institutions can contribute which will most likely increase with further decline of wild populations. Research questions such as colony management, impact of data loggers, tagging or handling of penguins are subjects where institutions can contribute. These questions can be linked to more complex topic such as climate change and how conditions of birds and colonies in different climate zones.

Indirect Conservation icon  Conservation Education
Functioning as a charismatic flagship species to the wild population, the African penguin could help engaging the public with a conservation education story about climate change, habitat loss, oil spills and especially about overfishing and how these threats are affecting penguin species from a temperate climate. 

Financially supporting SANCCOB (Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds) conservation initiatives such as penguin rangers in several colonies, an extensive research programme, chick rearing, education and/or disease surveillance.

Programme partners



Programme numbers

In April 2023, the African penguin EEP had 2208 animals in 66 institutions.

Programme highlights