Web TV Series Focuses on Life in the Zoo’s African Penguin Colony
San Diego Zoo Global is making a big splash for World Penguin Day (April 25, 2019), with the release of a trailer for its first-ever “reality television”-style web series, “Penguin Beach.” The new episodic show—scheduled to premiere this summer on Facebook, YouTube and the San Diego Zoo Kids channel—will focus on the dramatic, hilarious and often unexpected social dynamics of the San Diego Zoo’s colony of African penguins.
“This is still a new colony, so It’s been amazing to watch the penguins’ personalities unfold over the past two years,” said Lara Jones, keeper at the San Diego Zoo. “They are definitely a wild bunch, so the viewers can expect a wide range of behaviors that will make you laugh, cry, and possibly fall in love with each of them.”
The opening episode of “Penguin Beach” follows Jack, the newest resident of the colony, as he tries to figure out his role in the group. Throughout the series, viewers will learn about the many facets of life at Penguin Beach, including the penguins’ individual personalities, and how they handle conflicts with their mates and their neighbors. San Diego Zoo animal care staff will provide insightful commentary, addressing “drama” in the colony while offering expert clarification on these birds’ natural behaviors.
The African penguin is listed as Endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species. Once one of southern Africa’s most abundant seabirds, the species has suffered a massive population decline—from an estimated 1 million breeding pairs to only 23,000 breeding pairs today, a population decrease of more than 60 percent in the past 28 years. Historically, penguin eggs and guano were commercially harvested, which had a devastating effect on the population. Although both practices were abolished toward the end of the 20th century, other threats—including a lack of readily available food due to overfishing, climate change, oil and marine pollution,the emergence of avian influenza A (H5N8) virus, habitat degradation and predation by seals, sharks and land-based predators—contribute to a continuing population decline.
San Diego Zoo Global participates in the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ Species Survival Plan (SSP) program for these endangered aquatic birds and partners with the Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds (SANCCOB), to help facilitate conservation programs in South Africa.
Guests can visit Jack and the rest of the “stars” of “Penguin Beach” at their home in the Dan and Vi McKinney Penguin Habitat inside Conrad Prebys Africa Rocks. Their habitat features a cobble beach area, penguin nesting areas and rockwork that mimics the granite boulders found at Boulders Beach in South Africa. There’s also a 200,000-gallon saltwater pool for the penguins that stretches 170 feet, with depths up to 13 feet.