Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Image of the Day-free Wallpaper!

Dr. Dee and Her Love of Penguins

The Penguin Mavin

In November 2006, while Dee Boersma was waiting to board a plane in Trelew, Argentina, she picked up the city’s newspaper, Diario Jornada, to read during the flight. As she scanned the front page, a headline caught her eye: “Denunciaron un Escándalo en la Pingüinera.” Next to it was a photo of a Magellanic penguin, the species that Boersma, a biology professor at the University of Washington, has studied for more than 25 years. Boersma’s Spanish is far from perfect, but the gist seemed clear: There was a scandal of some sort, and it involved penguins.

Curious, she turned to page 37. There she saw, much to her dismay, an article lambasting one “Dee Borman” for crimes against the Provincial Office of Tourism. The piece was short but hinted at dark revelations to come.

“It was,” Boersma would tell me later, “not good.”

t got worse. The next day, she found herself the subject of a ringing traducement. “Echaron a la científica del escándalo en la pingüinera,” the headline blared, and there was a photo of this “Dee Borman” character, grimacing in dark glasses, her gloved hands wrapped around the neck of a penguin, which she appeared to be strangling.

“The worst part was that the story claimed I was going to try to sell them,” Boersma says. At the Punta Tombo Reserve, home to the largest colony of Magellanic penguins in the world, this was a serious allegation. During the nesting season from September through late February, around half a million Magellanic penguins come ashore there, and 200,000 pairs breed. This wildlife spectacle still occurs largely because local people banded together in the early 1980s to stop a Japanese company from harvesting thousands of the penguins each year for their oil, meat, and skin (to use for golf gloves). Under the auspices of the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), Boersma first came to Punta Tombo at that time to see whether such a harvest might be in any way sustainable. She found that it would not. And now, years later, here she was apparently trying to profit from the penguins, according to the newspaper, at any rate.

What had happened was this: The Friday before she was to return to the U.S., Boersma learned from the reserve warden (“a good man in a tough spot”) that Argentina’s director of conservation planned to extend a tourist trail through the penguin colony over the weekend. From the start, Boersma had opposed the trail. If it followed its planned route, she argued, the trail would destroy almost 200 penguin nests and cut off the birds’ access to 10,000 more.

The warden showed Boersma the planks of wood for the trail. But Boersma had to catch her flight, and there wasn’t time to make the appropriate calls. So she moved the planks, hiding them under bushes and scattering them about. When the director found out what she had done, he was furious. He accused her of destroying government property. He went to the press. The penguin scandal was born.

In the end, the imbroglio was more a product of misunderstanding than entrepreneurial menace, and it was duly resolved. The trail wasn’t built, Boersma paid a fine, and her relations with the provincial government of Chubut went back to their usual amicable state. But the incident illustrates how the focus of Boersma’s research has evolved. She started out asking basic biological questions: How far do Magellanic penguins have to swim so they can feed their chicks? What are their nesting habits? Now, she must tackle thornier, more existential topics: How will penguins fare in the face of climate change? And how do you keep the cute, comical creatures that people love from being loved too much?

Barely a third of a mile across at its widest point, Punta Tombo is a finger of beach that curls off the coast of Argentina, where the Patagonian steppe meets the Atlantic Ocean. For a temperate desert, it is full of life. Besides the bird colonies, southern elephant seals occasionally haul out on its sands, killer whales haul out after those seals to eat them, and right whales mosey past during migration. But the penguins are what give the peninsula its singularly pungent air and cacophonic character. They begin to arrive in late September—at first a steady drop drop drop, which swells and swells in the following weeks. By mid-October, penguins are everywhere, a great sea of birds braying at each other and settling into the burrows in which, if the year is good, they will raise their brood of two chicks.

In her role as director of the WCS Penguin Project, Boersma watches over this phenomenon. That the birds might suffer from a surfeit of love is due in no small part to her advocacy on their behalf. Each year, she and her crew of students and volunteers head down to Punta Tombo to spend the austral spring and summer giving the colony its annual check-up. They brave fleas, snapping beaks, and a seemingly bottomless supply of guano to weigh and measure penguins by the thousands. An adult can weigh up to 12 pounds, so hefting them all day is “good weight training,” says Ginger Rebstock, a researcher in Boersma’s lab. The scientists track survivorship by banding the flipper-like wings of young birds or giving them toe-tags. They visit hundreds of nests throughout the colony to see how each penguin pair is doing and whether their chicks will fledge.

Penguins show a site fidelity that borders on fanaticism. Of the 54,361 birds that Boersma’s team has banded over the years, only 149 were later recorded at a colony other than the one in which they were born. If possible, adults use the same burrow year after year. Because of this, Boersma has come to know certain penguins quite well, and has named some of her stalwarts. One particular favorite of late is Turbo, a hapless male that lost his burrow and, as forcibly displaced young males are wont to do, overcompensated for his shortcomings: He took up residence under the project’s giant pickup truck: a Ford F100.

Recently, Boersma and her team have shifted their focus from how the penguins behave while at the colony to what they do when they leave. In August 2007, she and graduate student Elizabeth Skewgar glued satellite tags to six males in San Clemente del Tuyú and Mar del Plata, two coastal towns more than 500 miles north of Punta Tombo. The birds had been found saturated with oil. Now that the birds are cleaned and fully recovered, Boersma hopes they will reveal their migratory routes south to Punta Tombo and help pinpoint the source of the oil that sullied their plumage.

“We don’t know where the penguins go when they aren’t at the colony,” Boersma says. “We want to see whether they follow a straight, well-defined route or not.”

Another big cause for concern is overfishing. As dedicated fleets mine the ocean, they force penguins to search farther and farther from the colony to find anchovies, their preferred food. Magellanics are remarkable swimmers and can travel 100 miles a day if they must. That doesn’t mean they want to. When hunting to feed their young, they prefer to stay as close to the colony as possible, lessening the risk of the chicks starving while they wait. Boersma has found that, to find enough prey, penguins now have to swim almost 40 miles farther from their nests than they did a decade ago.

Climate change is the latest, biggest worry and the hardest to address logistically. Rising water temperatures have been shown to alter the distribution of prey species in the region, exacerbating the effects of overfishing. Climate change also alters precipitation regimes, making Patagonia’s desert wetter. This could have disastrous consequences. During 24 years of record keeping, Boersma observed that the colony’s nesting failures closely mirror the amount of rain in the area: If more than 2.5 inches of rain fall during the year, most chicks don’t survive to fledge. When the rains cause flooding, penguin burrows collapse. Wet down is not an effective insulator, so the sodden chicks die of hypothermia.

“All these things add up,” Boersma says. “The colony has declined by 22 percent since 1987, although it’s showing signs of stabilizing. Still, we’re not sure how the penguins will react to the effects of climate change, or to some of the challenges close to home.”

“Close to home” means, in essence, people. Punta Tombo lies 60-odd miles from Trelew, the nearest town, population 100,000. When the reserve opened to the public in 1979, some 5,000 people braved the bumpy gravel road to visit the colony. Then, thanks to Boersma’s work, people began to learn more about this spectacle of penguins only a few miles from their homes. The road was soon paved, and with that came concerted efforts by the provincial government to use the penguins to generate revenue for Chubut. Tourist numbers increased steadily. In 2003, 62,000 people visited; in 2007, 105,000. The needs of the penguins and the needs of the visitors are difficult to reconcile. But in April 2008, the government approved a new management plan for the reserve. Five years in preparation, it incorporates suggestions from 90 stakeholder groups.

The plan emphasizes that the key to sustainable relations between the species is for people to understand the cost to, and the worth of, the penguins they want to see so badly, says Boersma. Ironically, the fact that people want to see them may be their salvation. However, she adds, the affection people feel for these birds must carry over into action. “People can’t be content with just looking and leaving. Penguins are marine sentinels. They are telling us things about their environment, which is also our environment. It’s up to us to listen to them.”

As this issue went to press, Eric Wagner was in Punta Tombo, helping band penguins during the 2008 nesting season. To read more, visit

Story and pictures courtesy of the Wildlife Conservation Magazine @

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Image of the Day

Emperor penguin on an iceberg accompanied by three Adelie penguins

Conservationists Hard at Work to Save African Penguins

The African penguin colony at Dyer Island, off the southern tip of South Africa, 29 Dec 2008

Wilfred Chivell of the Dyer Island Conservation Trust inspects fiberglass igloos he has installed to help African penguins nest on the rocky surface, 29 Dec. 2008

Venessa Strauss holds abandoned African penguin at South African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds, 29 Dec. 2008. Venessa is a veterinary nurse who rescues emaciated chicks that have been abandoned by their parents on the breeding islands offshore.

Team from South African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds returns abandoned African penguins to the wild after three months of feeding at an animal hospital, 29 Dec. 2008

Conservationists Try to Prevent African Penguin Extinction

By Terry FitzPatrick
Cape Town
29 December 2008

Millions of African penguins once roamed the beaches along the continent's southern coast. But their population is collapsing and conservationists have begun drastic measures to prevent the species from going extinct. They are installing artificial nests to help the penguins survive. They are even feeding wild penguins by hand.

Dyer Island, about five miles off the southern tip of Africa, is a key breeding site for the African penguin. But a local charter boat captain, Wilfred Chivell, says the penguins need help.

"You can see it's impossible for any bird to make a nest in this area-boulders upon boulder upon boulder," Chivell said.

Over the years, people removed the topsoil from this island because it was rich in bird droppings and made good fertilizer. As a result, penguins can no longer burrow underground to build nests. They must breed in the open, where chicks are often killed by predators or stormy weather.

Chivell has decided to step in. He is installing small fiberglass igloos for the penguins to use as nests.

"Once you've placed the nest there, they decorate," Chivell said. "They put a few extra stones and a few feathers and pieces of the natural vegetation here. So they make it nice and homely for themselves."

The need for artificial nests demonstrates why the African penguin is listed as a vulnerable species by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. Much of the penguin's natural habitat has been destroyed. As well, commercial fishing fleets have reduced their food supply. Chivell has formed the Dyer Island Conservation Trust to install 800 nests at this site.

"I think they thought we're a little bit mad trying to put houses out for penguins," Chivell said. "But nesting was definitely one of the things they needed. And it's an easy thing to do."

Another group is helping penguin chicks to survive. The South African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds, or SANCCOB, has brought 62 newborns this year to an animal hospital in Cape Town.

"You see these birds come in and they're basically just a breadth of wind," Strauss said. "There's no body fat to them, they're just skinny. It's quite sad."

"The problem that African penguins face in the wild when they have to raise two chicks really is a shortage of food," Strauss said. "The birds are battling to find enough food out there. So what often happens is that they can't feed the birds enough and so your weaker chick will slowly fade away."

The team here is nursing the abandoned chicks back to health, feeding them up to eight sardines per day.

Building nests and hand-feeding chicks are not long-term solutions. But the South African government's top penguin biologist, Robert Crawford, says efforts like these are necessary.

"It wouldn't be in itself sufficient to save the species, but it can have significant benefits," Crawford said. "I think it's got to that stage where every management intervention that will have benefits to the species has to be taken."

The government is considering bigger steps, such as closing parts of the coastline to fishing. But Crawford says the penguins can't wait.

Back on Dyer Island, Sunet Ferreira from SANCCOB is ready to release some of the abandoned chicks back into the wild. They have been in the hospital for three months.

"This is their first time they would see the actual beach since they were chicks," Ferreira said. "So it's all new. That's why they're going to try to huddle together to get some confidence. And as soon as they feel ready they will move down to the beach,"

As Ferreira opens the cardboard boxes, 27 chicks quickly rejoin their cousins on the shoreline. Overall, SANCCOB has rescued nearly 1,400 penguins. With a species that is declining fast, scientists say every chick counts.

Story and pictures courtesy of Voice of America @

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Moody Gardens Sports New Arrivals! (and Image(s) of the Day

First baby penguins of the year born at Moody Gardens

06:24 PM CST on Tuesday, December 23, 2008

by Michelle Ponto /

GALVESTON, Texas – Christmas arrived early at Moody Gardens with the arrival of two baby penguins.

The babies were born on Dec. 12 and Dec. 19. They were the first two penguin births this year, making the holidays even more meaningful for the healing island as recovery efforts progress following Hurricane Ike.

“Everyone loves the warm and fuzzy,” said Diane Olsen, assistant curator at the Aquarium Pyramid, referring to the fuzzy penguin chicks as well as the heartwarming reaction they seem to trigger. “As a Galveston resident myself, I know we can appreciate each of these wonderful occurrences this year.”

Despite intermittent power, emergency power and a few days of life support through oxygen tanks and air rocks following Hurricane Ike, the Moody Gardens penguins started breeding activities right after the storm, signaling optimal conditions and behavior in the penguin habitat, Olsen said. Staff is expecting 11 more eggs of various species to hatch in the coming weeks.

The parents of the two gentoo chicks came from Sea World six years ago. The two babies hatched just seven days apart, but they grow quickly.

"They will be adult size in about 30-35 days," said Olsen. "It's a good survival techique. They grow fast to get out the sea while the fishing is still good."

The babies are about 120 grams when they are born, and in a little over a month they will be around 3.5 kg.

"They pretty much double in weight every day," said Olsen. "They grow a little faster in captivity because of the steady food source."

Olsen said the penguins are running about a month behind in their breeding, which is probably due to the hurricane. While they were able to the temperature of the tanks stable during the poweroutage, the lack of light may have through them off.

"Their breeding is all done by light-cycle," said Olsen. "Once the lights came back on, they started creating nests on the rocks and have been breeding ever since."

The Moody Gardens Aquarium Pyramid now offers a special 45-minute Penguin Experience program offering guests a close-up encounter with real penguins and a presentation by biologists about penguin biology and how they care for these popular creatures.

The baby chicks are also on exhibit.


Story and Videos courtesy of KHOU.Com @

Penguin Chicks at Snow Hill Rookery

On their own two feet at last: penguin chicks make tracks

Like a scene straight out of a Disney film, these five-month-old Emperor penguin chicks set out without their parents on the suitably named Snow Hill Island in Antarctica.

Emperor penguins breed during the dark winter months and gather at rookeries up to 60 miles inland to huddle together for warmth in temperatures that can fall to minus 60C (-76F). Within the huddle, they can raise the temperature by 20C through their collective body warmth.

The penguins (Aptenodytes forsteri) assemble at the breeding colonies early in winter, shortly after the sea ice has formed, and adults are able to identify their young from the chicks’ distinctive call. This way they can ensure that they only feed their own chicks among the thousands of others.

They do not drink water but they can eat snow and stoop to feed their chicks, which stand on their mother’s feet at feeding time. After the winter breeding season, which starts in March, the penguins stay huddled inland and the chicks are born between mid-July and August, having to face 100mph winds and bitter temperatures. They live mostly on fish and crustaceans, found either in open water or in tidal cracks in pack ice.

Story courtesy of The Times Online @

Emperor Penguins gather in Antarctica

Adult Emperor Penguins lean over a large, healthy chick they have raised. Snow Hill Island, Antarctica. Photo: Barcroft Media

Penguins gather in Antarctica

By Murray Wardrop
Last Updated: 2:01PM GMT 25 Dec 2008

Huddling together in subzero temperatures, these playful emperor penguin chicks face a fight for survival in their Antarctic home with temperatures plunging to -76F (-60C) and winds over 100mph.

The young penguins on Snow Hill Island, Antarctica, only began moulting their juvenile grey plumage within the last two months but must prepare themselves for a bitter winter ahead.

But the chicks will now have to hunt for themselves when they get hungry because their parents stop feeding them at this time of year, so they become more independent.

By assembling in colonies, and huddling together, they can keep warm by rotating which of them stand in the centre of the group.

The emperor penguin is the largest of all penguins, easily recognised by its black cap, blue-grey neck, orange ear-patches and bills, and yellow breasts.

Recent research has projected that an increase in temperature of two degrees would kill off half the emperor penguin colonies in Antarctica as their ice pack habitat melted away.

The US government faced criticism from wildlife campaigners earlier this month after not including the emperor penguin among a list of seven species to be given protected status.

The US Fish and Wildlife Service said there was insufficient evidence to list the emperor as threatened at present, citing uncertainty over climate change predictions.

Assembling at the breeding colonies early in winter, shortly after the sea ice has formed, emperor penguins breed during the perpetual darkness of the Antarctic winter, in March and April.

Gathering together near a solid iceberg, the female lays a single egg that she passes over to the male, who incubates the egg until it hatches.

The females return to the colonies seven to eight weeks after laying to relieve their mates and tend to the newly-hatched chicks.

By midsummer, the fledglings are independent and will be ready to breed in as little as four years.

Story courtesy of The Telegraph @

This Week's Pencognito

Please visit Jen and all the pengies HERE

Saturday, December 27, 2008

3/4 of Big Antarctic Penguin Colonies to Disappear?

3/4 of Big Antarctic Penguin Colonies to Disappear?

Ker Than
for National Geographic News
December 1, 2008

Up to 75 percent of major Antarctic penguin colonies may disappear if climate change continues to heat up the continent, according to a recent report.

A global temperature increase of 3.6 Fahrenheit (2 degrees Celsius) above pre-industrial levels will result in widespread changes to sea ice that the birds depend on for survival.

The temperature increase will, in any scenario, lead to a major reshuffling of colonies of emperor and Adélie penguins—the two penguin species that rely on ice for hunting and breeding.

In addition, there could be marked habitat loss of these iconic birds, said the report commissioned by the conservation group WWF.

The penguins' range is already shrinking, said David Ainley, a penguin expert with H.T. Harvey & Associates of San Jose, California, who co-authored the report.

Up to 50 percent of emperor colonies and 75 percent of Adélie colonies could be affected, the researchers said.

(Related: "Adélie Penguins Extinct in a Decade in Some Areas?" [December 28, 2007].)

Antarctica currently has about 40 emperor colonies and 160 Adélie colonies, with each population containing thousands of birds.

Tightening Noose

Many scientists consider 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit (2 degrees Celsius) to be the minimum temperature increase necessary to trigger catastrophic climate change.

"If you go beyond 2 degrees it really gets scary," Ainley said.

According to the latest report by the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), released in February 2007, that threshold could be reached in as little as 40 years.

The WWF report combines results from four IPCC climate models to predict changes that will occur in oceans surrounding Antarctica.

Two degrees Celsius will warm seas north of Antarctica, which will lead to stronger winds and increased snow and rain in the region.

"The westerly winds, which drive the big currents around Antarctica, will move poleward like a tightening noose," said Joellen Russell, a climate modeler at the University of Arizona who was involved in the research.

This will in turn prevent sea ice formation everywhere in the oceans off Antarctica, especially in the continent's northern latitudes, where emperor and Adélie penguin colonies are concentrated.

Ice Dwellers

Emperor penguins breed and rear their young on sea ice connected to land, called fast ice.

Adélies don't nest on sea ice but, like emperors, they forage for food among crumbling sea ice, also known as pack ice.

If sea ice disappears, the two bird species will have a harder time nesting, and could face increased competition from open-water penguin species.

In fact, some penguin species may benefit from the loss of sea ice.

For instance, ice-intolerant penguins, such as chinstraps and gentoos, are moving into the warmer Antarctic habitats once occupied by the Adélies, according to research by William Fraser of the Polar Oceans Research Group.

Since 1974, gentoos have increased in number by 7,500 percent and chinstraps by 2,700 percent, Fraser found.

Surprises in Store

Andrew Monaghan is an atmospheric scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado, who was not involved in the research.

Monaghan called the study a "very good effort" at predicting the impact of global warming in Antarctica, but he noted that many of the factors influencing climate change at Earth's poles are still not well understood.

"We don't have a good handle on climatic variability on longer time scales in Antarctica," Monaghan said.

"There could still be some surprises in store that could change the timing and magnitude of some of the warming that we'll see."

Dee Boersma, a penguin expert at the University of Washington in Seattle, has studied penguins in Argentina for 25 years with support from the National Geographic Society's Committee for Research and Exploration. (National Geographic News owns the National Geographic Society.)

"This is an excellent study, but the real problem is the increasing number of humans on the planet and their growing consumption," Boersma said.

(Related: "Penguin Chicks Frozen by Global Warming?" [July 2, 2008].)

Study co-author Ainley agreed that humans are the penguins' more immediate threat.

"The profound alteration of marine food webs by overfishing has had far, far more effects on the oceans than global climate change will have for a very long time," he said.

And global warming could make an already dire situation in Antarctica even worse, Ainley added.

"As the sea ice recedes, humans have access to fish previously protected by sea ice," he said.


* Antarctic Melt Releasing DDT, Tainting Penguins (May 12, 2008)
* Interactive Map of Antarctica
* King Penguins Declining Due to Global Warming (February 11, 2008)

Thanks to National Geographic for the use of this report:

Sick Penguin Improves in Galveston, TX

Things looking up for ill penguin

From staff reports
The Daily News

Published December 23, 2008
GALVESTON — Initial reports are favorable for a sick king penguin kept from Moody Gardens after surgery Monday morning for a prolapsed cloaca.

The adult male, identified as No. 18 or “Biggio,” was taken to a veterinary hospital at 8 a.m. after a staff biologist found the bird in peril.

Surgery was completed by 10:30 a.m. and early reports indicate the penguin is comfortable and recovering, a Moody Gardens spokesperson said.

A prolapsed cloaca is the weakening of the posterior opening that serves as the common opening for the intestinal and urinary tracts of certain animal species, including birds, according to Moody Gardens.

The condition is potentially life-threatening and more common among birds that lay eggs frequently. The cause of the prolapsed cloaca with the male penguin was unknown.

The bird’s health and behavior would be closely monitored by the veterinarian and Moody Gardens staff as it continues to recover and the cause for its ailment is determined, said Diane Olsen, assistant curator of penguins and seals at Moody Gardens.

Story courtesty of the Galveston Daily News @

MindTouch--you rock!!!!

MindTouch has a unique offer - upgrade from an open source to commercial version of the company’s Deki wiki, and they’ll adopt an emperor penguin through the World Wildlife Fund:

What’s really neat about this time of year is that people are wrapping up the year and bringing out their giving spirit - let’s not forget to include our precious endangered species on our list. So this year MindTouch will donate and adopt, from the World Wildlife Fund, an emperor penguin in your company’s name when you upgrade to MindTouch Standard or Enterprise license from an existing Deki Open Source installation.

My question is whether people using the Open Source version of Deki would be likely to convert to a commercial license, or are those using open source licenses the type of organizations that rely on open source licenses because they’re free - open source projects, non-profits, etc?

Do people often start out with an open source version as a way to try Deki before they buy? I’d love to know more about this, so if you’re a MindTouch customer (or employee), please chime in and let us know. Either way, I think this is a great idea, and perhaps something that commercial customers might be interested in too…

Emperor Penguin photo courtesy Guillaume Dargaud.
Story courtesy of Future Changes @

Why the U.S. Would Protect Penguins Under the Endangered Species Act

the Humboldt penguin near Punta Arenas, Chile
Uploaded on July 22, 2008 on Flickr by rick ligthelm

Why the U.S. Would Protect Penguins Under the Endangered Species Act

There are wild no penguins in the United States. But many penguin species are in danger -- some dramatically -- and all populations are dropping fast. What to do, what to do?

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service this week proposed protecting seven penguin species under the Endangered Species Act. Six would be declared "threatened" species, while the seventh, the African penguin, would be listed as "endangered." The action follows a lawsuit, and resulting court order, to review the penguins' need for protection.

To be honest, this move would do little to directly protect penguins in the wild, although it would "raise awareness about the species and could give the U.S. leverage in international negotiations to protect them from fishing, habitat loss, development and other threats," according to a report
from The Associated Press.

But this decision also does something else: it insulates the United States from further protecting the penguins by declaring that global warming is not responsible for the penguins' decline. Although FWS said it "considered information on longer term climate change impacts to these species," it officially declared that the relevant threats to the penguins include "commercial fishing, competition for prey, habitat loss, disease, and predation."

Of course, many environmental groups disagree. The Center for Biological Diversity, which first filed the lawsuit responsible for this week's decision, points out that "abnormally warm ocean temperatures and diminished sea ice have wreaked havoc on the penguins' foods supply." The CBD also maintains its position that the Endangered Species Act "has an important role to play in reducing greenhouse gas pollution by compelling federal agencies to look at the impact of the emissions generated by their activities on listed species and to adopt solutions to reduce them."

Of course, the Interior Department has already made it clear that it WILL NOT ALLOW the Endangered Species Act to be used to regulate emissions and global warming.

A 60-day period is now open for public comments on penguin protection. Information on how to comment is available HERE

Excellent story courtesy of PlentyMag @

Famished Penguins Rescued

Famished penguins rescued
27/12/2008 4:00:00 AM

Low fish stocks are forcing penguins to come closer to shore to look for a feed, with five needing rescuing after washing onto South Coast beaches during the past week.

Australian Seabird Rescue South Coast branch co-ordinator Julie Clarke yesterday halted family celebrations twice to pick up two fairy penguins, one that washed ashore at Port Kembla and the other at Bawley Point, south of Ulladulla.

She feeds the birds and keeps them housed in a backyard coop until they are healthy enough to be released.

"They've ended up on the beaches because of the rough seas and because, due to changes in climate, fish stocks are low," Mrs Clarke said.

"They come in to the coast to look for fish and get washed ashore."

Both fairy penguins are adults and are underweight, with bruising from the heavy seas.

"Penguins are a resilient bird - the only issue is that with infections they can go downhill pretty quick," Mrs Clarke said.

Breeding time for fairy penguins is November to February.

While they often can be found near the Five Islands and Montague Island, it would normally be weeks between rescues.

The rise in penguin rescues mirrored an increase in the number of pelicans also needing treatment.

[PI9017] Australian Seabird Rescue South Coast can be contacted on 0431 282 238.

Story and Photo courtesy of Illawara Mercury @

Visitors adversely affecting little blue penguins

view photostream Uploaded on Flickr on June 17, 2006
by chi liu

Visitors adversely affecting penguins

By David Bruce on Sat, 27 Dec 2008
The Regions: North Otago | Your Town: Oamaru

Blue penguins at Oamaru harbour need more protection from the tourists who visit them, an environmentalist says.

Coast Care environmentalist Lorraine Adams has been trying for more than three years to make the harbour area safer for the penguins, particularly along Waterfront Rd, the main access to the Oamaru blue penguin colony.

Now, with the tourism season at its peak, Miss Adams is calling on the Waitaki District Council, which owns the tourism venture, to improve the lot of penguins crossing from the harbour over Waterfront Rd to their nests to feed chicks.

"No attempts have been made to alleviate the problems associated with the tourism venture in the evenings. Ignoring the problems will not make them disappear," she said.

Some evenings it was "chaos", with vehicles and tourists on foot leaving the viewing session at the colony.

A lot of the problem was because of a lack of information. That was slowing or preventing the penguins getting to their nesting sites to feed hungry chicks.

The Oamaru harbour has two main nesting areas - the colony and the Department of Conservation reserve north of Holmes Wharf.

However, penguins may choose to nest anywhere around the harbour and its environs, making their way at dusk and dawn to and from the sea.

Miss Adams has suggested to the council a number of changes to improve safety, both for the penguins and visitors.

These included two people patrolling part of the harbour to make sure penguins can get across roads and public areas unrestricted, more signs warning people to drive slowly and watch for penguins crossing, a 20kmh speed limit on Waterfront Rd in the evenings, preventing access to some areas in the evening, improving access for penguins, better signs for the car park, directing pedestrians to walk on the left side of the road, penguin-watching guidelines and viewing information.

"The tourist venture at the quarry may be promoted as `eco-tourism at its best', but what benefits does this give to penguins trying to negotiate traffic and interfering humans every evening?" she said.

Story from The Otago Daily Times @

The First Penguin Award

Note from wiinterrr: I LIKE this award!!!

First Penguin Award

Published: Saturday, December 27, 2008 7:56 AM CST
Students make leap to help others

In the cold, bleak Antarctic, there is no telling what might lie beneath the surface of the frigid water. Dangerous predators that lurk under the ice shelf are quick to pounce on the penguins who find food in the water.

This makes the first penguin in the ocean exceptionally brave and self-sacrificing. The first penguin has inspired people from the late Carnegie Mellon professor Randy Pausch of "Last Lecture" fame to businesspeople who want to reward employees who are unafraid to take risks.

Most recently, Kalispell Middle School has embraced the first penguin by creating the First Penguin Award, designed to honor students who demonstrate courage by taking a risk to help others.


Friday Videos (a day late)

Images of the Day

Friday, December 26, 2008

Image of the Day

Chinstrap Penguin, originally uploaded by slobirdr.

Chinstrap Penguins vie for the first exposed rock during the austral summer. This advantage of early nesting enhances the success of raising young.

News on the Cable Front!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Image of the Day

Are you lookin' at me?, originally uploaded by Slow Loris.

King penguin and fur seal eyeball each other at Salisbury Plain, South Georgia.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Image of the Day

Juvenile Emperor Penguin, originally uploaded by mgsbird.

Calling on an ice floe near Snow Hill Island, Weddell Sea, Antarctica.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

This Week's Pencognito!

Please visit Jen and all the pengies HERE

The Korean Debacle

Remember the "make a fast buck" for the Korean zoo that advertised anyone could take their penguins for a walk or a sleighride? Here's the video--and shame on them for treating their penguins with such a lack of respect: HERE

A horrible example of the lowest of the low

Mindless cruelty
4/12/2008 3:24:00 PM

Vandals killed chicks and up-ended more than 30 nesting boxes at the Kingscote penguin rookery overnight on Thursday last week.

Rookery manager John Ayliffe was notified by police on Friday morning after a report of the damage.

Bewildered and “irritated” by the attack, Mr Ayliffe said the rookery was a community asset and an important part of the tourist attractions on the island.

“We have had minor acts of vandalism before but never on this scale,” he said.

Staff from the Department for Environment and Heritage and the KI Natural Resources Management Board arrived to survey the scene.

Mr Ayliffe said it might be time to call a multi-agency meeting to look at ways to protect the site, perhaps through surveillance cameras.

Shocked tourists visiting the area could not believe that someone could treat the area and the birds with such contempt.

The carcases of four fledgling chicks were found nearby. The whereabouts of seven others remained unknown.

Sergeant Garry Elliott said police had several ideas about who might be responsible.

“Unfortunately that culture of not dobbing in a mate still exists. But really this is beyond normal vandalism.”

He said several other sites had been graffitied and vandalised that night.

Mr Ayliffe said he and others at the KI Marine Centre had tried to keep young people involved at the site, to give them ownership of the community asset and not “go to war with them”.

DEH regional conservator Bill Haddrill denounced the “wanton destruction” and said the attack had damaged the scientific monitoring of the rookery, in which up to 100 chicks had been microchipped this year.

Story and picture courtesy of The Islander @

Otago Platform Opens for Viewing Yellow Penguins

Sandfly Bay viewing platform opened
Home » News » Dunedin
By Sarah Harvey on Mon, 8 Dec 2008
News: Dunedin

Department of Conservation community relations programme manager David Mules with visitors to the new viewing platform and information boards at Sandfly Bay, on the Otago Peninsula yesterday. Photo by Peter McIntosh.
Blustery winds and mist did not deter about 40 people from enjoying the opening of upgraded visitor facilities at Otago Peninsula's oldest reserve at Sandfly Bay yesterday.

The building of the viewing platform, a five-minute walk from the end of Seal Point Rd, and accompanying information boards as well as a revamped track coincides with the reserve's 100th anniversary.

Department of Conservation community relations programme manager David Mules said more people were visiting the area and the effect on penguin populations was of increasing concern.

And with about 512 nesting pairs along the Otago coastline this year, the information boards would help educate the general public on how to behave around the animals.

He hoped this would result in an increase in breeding at Sandfly Bay.

Volunteers who stationed themselves at the reserve during busy periods to let the public know how to act around sea lions and yellow-eyed penguins had made a big difference, he said.

Researcher Ursula Ellenberg spoke of her findings over the past five years, using techniques such as hidden cameras and egg-shaped recorders, which showed human contact with penguin populations had made them "sensitised" and prone to overreact.

Even a careful human approach could double a penguin's heart rate, with it taking about half an hour to return to normal.

Mr Mules said work on the impact of humans on penguins at Sandfly Bay was critical as success in minimising disruption there would show it could work "anywhere".

"If we fail to protect the penguins here, we can probably wave goodbye to other unprotected penguin populations around the Otago coast."

Story courtesy of ODT.CO. NZ @

Little Penguin Colony is Growing

Penguin colony keeps growing


19/12/2008 1:49:00 PM

MIDDLE Island is alive with the pitter patter of penguin feet with the latest colony count showing the population has grown by almost 70 per cent in the past two years.

After dwindling to a dire population of just four in 2005, a world-first Maremma dog trial has turned the fate of the penguins around with numbers now at a two-year high.

A penguin count by Coastcare volunteers on Tuesday night revealed there are now 80 penguins and 26 chicks on the island, a significant increase on the 53 adults and seven chicks counted in 2006.

The result proves the Maremma dogs were doing their job of protecting the penguins from predators such as foxes, according to Deakin University PhD student Amanda Peucker who is monitoring the population.

"It's great to see the penguins doing so well," Mrs Peucker said.

"It seems like the Maremma's are doing their job by marking out their territory on the island, I haven't seen any signs of foxes over there."

For the past three months two new Maremma puppies have been in training to become permanent penguin protectors and are now ready to live permanently on the island during the peak breeding season.

Warrnambool City Council's environment planner Ian Fitzgibbon said a lot had been learnt from last year's trial when the Maremmas killed 10 penguins.

Middle Island is closed to the public for the summer and fines up to $500 apply.

Story courtesy of The Standard @

Unfortunately--there isn't one word stating what KIND of penguins the article is referring to, but never fear... here is one from the beginning of said venture that might help:

Dogs Take Vow: To Serve and Herd Penguins

by John Nielsen

David Hancock

All Things Considered, March 15, 2007 · Farmers have long used dogs to protect sheep, chickens and goats. Now, on an island off the southern coast of Australia, one farmer is using dogs to protect endangered penguins.

Every year, a mass of Fairy penguins comes to Middle Island to mate and lay their eggs. Allan Marsh, a farmer from the nearby town of Warrnambool, says these short, flightless birds have been making the trip for a long, long time.

"Little Fairy penguins have lived along this coast since penguins were invented, I suppose," he says.

Marsh raises free-range chickens on a farm next to a highway. He says that 20 years ago, the penguins on Middle Island made a deafening noise when they were breeding. Then, some foxes found the land bridge that connects the island to the mainland at low tide. Marsh says the foxes, which like to eat his chickens, appeared to love the taste of Fairy penguins.

"These are real free-range [birds] and they've got a salty flavor, too," he says, "It's like salt-and-vinegar chips to foxes, I reckon."

The foxes started preying on the penguins' eggs and chicks — almost wiping out the colony. Efforts to shoot and poison the foxes failed. It wasn't long before just a few dozen breeding pairs of penguins were left.

Then, a few years ago, Marsh — who is called "Swampy" by his friends — came up with a last-ditch solution: take the dogs that guard his chickens — or "chooks" as he calls them — and use them to guard the Fairy penguins.

The experts said it was a really stupid idea. They said the dogs would eat the penguins.

Then, last November, a local official who had run out of options told Marsh to bring out the dogs. Not long afterward, Marsh took a male guard dog named Oddball out to Middle Island. Within a week, Marsh says, the foxes were nowhere to be seen.

"The fox would not go within a mile and a half of the dog," Marsh says. "The dog would bark at foxes that it saw, [and] would also mark its territory to say, 'Hey, this is my place.'"

Marsh fed Oddball every day, but after three weeks on the island, the dog got lonely and swam home. Oddball's sister, Mollie, was sent out to replace him, followed by his brother, Ben. While these dogs were on the job, no fox tracks were discovered. When they left, the tracks came back.

In the wake of this success, Marsh says some conservationists are taking a look at the idea of using dogs to protect other vulnerable species.

"They haven't accepted it with open arms," he says, "but they've had their minds rattled and their eyes opened to the fact that there's another way of doing things."

But the penguins don't seem grateful. Marsh says Mollie found that out when she got too close to the sharp, hooked beak of one of the birds she was protecting.

"This penguin did a quick U-turn and latched onto her nose," he says.

Marsh says his dogs will go back on penguin-protection duty in a few months, when the birds return to Middle Island to breed.

Story courtesy of NPR @

Picture credit: David Hancock

Friday, December 19, 2008