penguin conservation

How Tanganyika contributes to Penguin Conservation

African Black-Footed Penguins are native to Southern Africa and found primarily in the nations of South Africa and Namibia. But halfway across the world, in Wichita Kansas, Tanganyika Wildlife Park is working hard to help preserve this critically endangered species and save them from extinction. Here at Tanganyika, the fun isn’t just about feeding fish and marveling at tuxedoed grace – it’s about making a real difference for penguins facing challenges around the world.

African penguins are an iconic species, with their soulful eyes and comical waddle, but their in big trouble. African Penguin populations have declined by three-quarters since 1990. Overfishing, pollution, and habitat loss paint a grim picture, with estimates suggesting they could be functionally extinct in the wild by 2035.

penguin conservation
Tanganyika Wildlife Park helps conserve penguins, snow leopards, and many other animals.

Tanganyika isn’t just a spectator – it’s actively involved. Its successful breeding program ensures a healthy population in human care, preserving the genetic diversity of the entire species. In addition to the work Tanganyika does to maintain the genetic diversity of African penguins living in human care, the park supports in situ conservation efforts, as well. 

The park directly supports DICT’s African Penguin and Seabird Sanctuary, providing a vital lifeline for injured and vulnerable birds among other initiatives. Imagine the joy of seeing a rehabilitated penguin take flight back to the ocean, thanks in part to Tanganyika’s dedication.

In this blog, we will learn more about the penguin species at Tanganyika, and how guests can help support penguin conservation


A Look at the Types of Penguins at Tanganyika

The IUCN classifies 18 types of penguins, also called species. 11 of these types of penguins are identified as globally threatened according to the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, calling for penguin conservation efforts.


While all species of penguins have their similarities – they’re all flightless, have black and white coats and are utterly captivating – they come in a variety of shapes and sizes with their distinct features.

  •  Fairy Blue Penguins – Fairy blue is the smallest species of penguin, resembling a blue and white bumblebee on waddling feet. Native to Australia and New Zealand, Blue Penguins only weigh 2-3 pounds
  •  Emperor penguins – The Emperor penguin is the largest of the types of penguins, towering over its kin at up to 4.3 feet tall, radiating regal elegance with its yellow chest and sleek black feathers. Emperor penguins are also one of the most recognizable penguin species, since they were featured in popular movies like “Happy Feet”, “March of the Penguins”, and “Surf’s Up.”
  • The King Penguin and Fiordland Penguin sport vibrant orange crests atop their heads, adding a splash of color to their otherwise black and white attire.
  • The Gentoo Penguin is known for its feisty temperament and aggressive flipper displays, especially during mating season.
  • While most penguins are black and white, some species like the Rockhopper Penguin have splashes of yellow and orange on their heads and necks. The Galapagos Penguin even has a reddish-brown chest, unique among its penguin kin.


At Tanganyika, we house African Black-footed Penguins. Sometimes, people are surprised to hear that penguins are native to Africa, since we often associate them with cold weather, 


Fun facts about African Penguins

  • Ability to swim 12 miles per hour: African penguins are master swimmers, reaching speeds of up to 12 miles per hour and diving to impressive depths exceeding 426 feet. Holding their breath for over 2.5 minutes, they navigate the ocean with remarkable agility.
  • They sound like a donkey: Earning the nickname “jackass penguins,” these birds are known for their distinct vocalizations. Their calls sound remarkably like a donkey’s bray, used for communication, especially during breeding season. Listen closely to their “honking” and “braying” chorus, it’s quite a unique symphony!
  • They have devoutly devoted partners: Unlike many other penguin species, African penguins are monogamous, mate for life, and share parenting duties equally. Witnessing a pair of penguins diligently taking care of their chicks is a heartwarming scene.

     types of penguins
    One of our many penguin friends here
  • They have bare patches with a purpose: Unlike other penguins, African penguins have bare patches on their faces and legs. These areas serve an important function, helping them regulate their body temperature by allowing excess heat to escape, especially in warmer climates.
  • They moult once a year: African penguins moult once a year, shedding their old feathers for new ones in what’s referred to as a “catastrophic moult.” This ensures they have the perfect “swimsuit” for each season, allowing them to maintain optimal temperature in both hot and cold water.
  • They thrive in bustling colonies for safety and chick-rearing support.: African penguins nest in large colonies, forming close bonds with their neighbours. These communities provide a sense of security and support for raising young chicks. Witnessing a penguin colony teeming with activity is a truly mesmerizing sight.
  • They are endangered: Sadly, African penguins are classified as endangered. Threats like habitat loss, oil spills, and overfishing pose significant challenges to their survival. However, dedicated penguin conservation efforts are underway, giving hope for their future.

Visit us today to get a chance to have a one-on-one experience with these African penguins in the park.


What You Can Experience at This Penguin Park 


Tanganyika Wildlife Park provides two unforgettable penguin park experiences, each contributing to the ultimate goal of penguin conservation. The first, and most popular experience is the penguin swim, allowing visitors to engage closely with these fascinating birds in their aquatic environment. 

The second experience is the penguin meet and greet, providing an opportunity for an up-close encounter with the penguins in a more interactive setting. By participating in these experiences, not only do visitors create lasting memories, but they also support initiatives dedicated to penguin conservation work. Now, let’s dive into the details of each of these remarkable encounters.

Penguin Swim

The penguin swim experience, offers you an incredible, amazing, and indescribable adventure swimming with the African penguins species, the only place in the United States that offers this unique opportunity. Some of the activities to expect include;

  •  Getting up close and personal with penguins: You’ll share a pool with these feathered friends, observing their playful personalities as they swim around you, play with toys, and even float in your hands.
  • Learning from the experts: A penguin keeper will accompany you, answering your questions and sharing fascinating facts and insights about each penguin.
  • Capturing the memories: Photos of you interacting with the penguins will be taken throughout your experience. Whether you choose to share them on Instagram, display them on your fridge, or frame them above your mantle, these pictures capture the essence of a distinct and memorable experience.
  • Posing with your new friends: Land-based posed photos will allow you to document your amazing encounter with these charming creatures.

Penguin Meet and Greet

The penguin meet and greet is a perfect opportunity to get a close interaction with the penguins in the park. The offerings to expect in this experience include;

 penguin park
Swim with penguins at Tanganyika Wildlife Park
  •  Direct interaction: You’ll have the opportunity to touch and take photos with the penguins, creating memories to last a lifetime.
  • Playful encounters: Get ready for laughter as you participate in a play session with the penguins, known for their fun-loving personalities and unique characters.
  •  Learning from the experts: Tanganyika trainers will be present to share their knowledge about penguins, and the types of penguins and answer any questions you have about these fascinating birds.

The Role of Tanganyika in Penguin Conservation 

Beyond its borders as a regional gem, Tanganyika Wildlife Park also represents the evolving role of modern zoos in global conservation efforts. Tanganyika Wildlife Park plays a crucial role in penguin conservation through both education and direct action. Below are some of the initiatives we undertake in penguin conservation work;

  • Empowering People: We raise awareness by educating visitors about the threats penguins face and simple actions they can take to help. Lowering fish consumption, choosing sustainable options with the Seafood Watch app, and reducing plastic usage are all powerful tools in our collective toolbox.
  • Supporting Breeding: Our unique genetic pool contributes significantly to breeding programs across various US zoos, ensuring healthy penguin populations for generations to come.
  • Global Partnerships: We actively collaborate with the Dyer Island Conservation Trust in South Africa, supporting their penguin rehabilitation, rehoming efforts, and even nest box-building initiatives.

For more information and a chance to experience an unforgettable adventure filled with fun, learning, and memories, contact us today or read a blog to learn more.

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