Cold snap wreaks havoc on African penguin population

The cold snap that hit South Africa in June, leading to incessant moaning from English football commentators who had failed to pack appropriately for the World Cup, had a far more malign impact on the nation's wildlife than it did on its showpiece sporting event. Around 600 African penguins, already an endangered species, were killed by the icy temperatures, heavy rain and significant wind chill over a two day period in mid-June on Bird Island, Algoa Bay in Eastern Cape province. The victims were mainly young chicks whose downy feathers provide scant protection against the elements. Unlike their Antarctic cousins, African penguins are not particularly adept at sheltering their young, a fact that has been exacerbated by the destruction reaped on the area's vegetation by a lengthy drought. As Bird Island is home to just 700 breeding pairs, the impact on the penguin population has been a savage one.