Herald on Sunday

Waddle you know? Penguins rule roost


They arrive every year in their snazzy black and white tuxedos, causing traffic jams and clamouring for quality real estate.

Endangered African penguins have long been a source of delight for visitors to the community of Simon’s Town in Western Cape, South Africa, mixing with humans as they go about their penguin tasks, which include the important one of finding a nest and breeding.

Now these critters are the stars of a new eight-part series on Netflix starting Thursday called Penguin Town, which follows several birds and reveals their personalit­ies, from a middle-aged pair nicknamed “the poster penguins for monogamy” to a young bachelor seeking his first mate.

“It became very clear very

quickly that this was like watching a reality show like Love Island or Big Brother,” said Cayley Christos, a field producer on the series and co-owner at production company Red Rock Films.

The show is narrated by comedian Patton Oswalt, a voiceover veteran.

“I watched a lot of the raw footage and I was just kind of bowled over how enchanting and sweet it was,” Oswalt said. Among the 1000-odd breeding pairs that arrive each mating season, the film-makers capture relatable characters, including a whimsical misfit they call “Junior” and a pack of troublemak­ers known as the “Car Park Gang”.

Behind the sweetness is serious business. Only 2 per cent of the African penguin population is left from the number that existed 100 years ago. Christos cites estimates the species has about 10 years before extinction.

“Living among people isn’t easy

. . . They really should be on an island, but they have no choice. They’d rather face these huge giants walking around them all day long than die,” she said.

The birds first started showing up in Simon’s Town in the early 1980s as boat traffic around their natural habitat increased. They usually arrive in November and stay for six months.

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 ?? Penguin Town. Photo / Netflix via AP ?? Penguin personalit­ies are to the fore in a new series on Netflix,
Penguin Town. Photo / Netflix via AP Penguin personalit­ies are to the fore in a new series on Netflix,

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