Saturday, January 31, 2009

On this day in 1967....

1967: Penguins cool off in heat wave
Two penguins from Chessington Zoo have been taken on a day trip to a local ice-rink to cool off during London's sweltering temperatures.

As temperatures in the London area reached nearly 80 degrees Fahrenheit (27 degrees Celsius), Rocky the Rockhopper penguin and his female companion, who did not have a name, joined skaters at Streatham ice-rink.

Zoo-keepers at Chessington, concerned about the welfare of the two penguins in the sweltering heat, contacted the owners of the ice-rink who were only too happy to be of service.

And the penguins, who are more used to the cooler temperatures of the Antarctic, seemed delighted with their new icy surroundings.

'It's cooler inside'

They arrived at the Silver Blades ice-rink accompanied by their keepers Philip Gunstone and Jane Redding.

Miss Redding said: "These are Rockhopper penguins from the Falkland Islands.

"Rockhoppers are more bothered by the heat than our other kind - Humboldt penguins.

"Humboldts don't mind the hot weather."

As they were released from their box the pair waddled purposefully through the door of ice-rink which bore a sign reading "It's cooler inside."

As they made their way towards the ice they appeared completely unphased by the other skaters and once on the slippery surface conducted themselves with dignity and grace.

Staff at the ice-rink were so impressed they extended an invitation to the zoo's other 20 penguins and said the seals could even come along too!

Story courtesy of the Beeb@

Image of the Day

beach path, originally uploaded by lucyuncu.

magellenic penguins Otway Sound

This Week's Pencognito!

Please visit Jen and all the pengies

Friday, January 30, 2009

Penguin Peeps--Come See Friday Videos!

Snares crested penguin (Eudyptes robustus)

Erect-crested penguin (Eudyptes sclateri)

Picspam Penguins

Right click to save!

Image courtesy of Red Orbit @

Emperor Penguins' Slow March Towards Extinction?

March of Penguins Turning Into Trail of Tears
By Alexis Madrigal
January 26, 2009 | 5:00:02 PM

Emperor penguin colonies will face extinction if the warming trend of the last 50 years continues over the next century.

Despite dwindling concern among Americans about climate change, the warming climate continues to change life for animals, particularly at the Earth's poles. In a new paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, biologists report that the penguins are in trouble.

"To avoid extinction, Emperor penguins will have to adapt, migrate or change the timing of their growth stages," they write. "However, given the future projected increases in [greenhouse gases] and its effect on Antarctic climate, evolution or migration seem unlikely for such long-lived species at the remote southern end of the Earth."

Across the world, it's becoming clear that some species are better than others at adapting to a changing climate. Some breed faster, making genetic changes easier. But there is a more subtle form of adaptation called phenotypic plasticity which is used to describe how animals use the genes they have to change their behavior.

For example, some species of plants can change the timing of their flowering more easily to take advantage of climate change. That's led to widespread changes in the ecosystem around Walden Pond in just the time since Henry David Thoreau prowled its shoreline, as some plants suffer and other plants benefit from the changing climate.

Like some of Walden's flowers, some bird species in Antarctica have been breeding earlier to give their chicks a chance to grow up before the sea ice breaks up. The penguins, sadly, don't appear to be so flexible.

The famously loyal and tough penguins breed miles inland through the dead of the Antarctic winter. If the sea ice on which they breed breaks up too quickly, the fluffy penguin chicks have to enter the sea before they are ready. Less sea ice also means less room for algae to grow, which in turn means fewer krill that eat the algae and ultimately less of the fish that the penguins eat. In the area the researchers studied, Terre Adelie, even 10 percent drops in the extent of sea ice reduced the population of penguins by about 50 percent.

Taking that data, the researchers modeled the Terre Adelie population with input from ten climate change scenarios developed by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. They calculated a 36 percent chance that the Emperor penguin population in the area would experience quasi-extinction, defined as a decline of more than 95 percent, by 2100.

The researchers note that the Ross Sea has experienced what climate scientists believe to be short-term sea ice gain. For now, the area will form a "last sanctuary for emperor penguin populations" but "this region too will eventually experience reduced sea ice extent as concentrations of atmospheric [greenhouse gases] increase further," they conclude.

Story courtesy of Wired Science @
Image: Carlie Reum/Natio

Warning: Do NOT Eat While Reading This One

(wiinterrr's note: I agree with my cousin-let's scram!!!)

By Alister Doyle
Environment Correspondent

ROTHERA BASE, Antarctica (Reuters) - Once the "delicacies of the Antarctic," fresh seal brains, penguin eggs or grilled cormorant are off the menu at research bases where chefs rely on imported and often frozen food.

"You have to use what you've got in the store. Frozen stuff, tinned stuff and if you're really desperate the dried stuff," said Alan Sherwood, a widely praised chef at the British Rothera base on the Antarctic Peninsula.

"We're now onto dried onions because we've run out," he said. "You can't just go out and buy some."

Rothera gets most of its supplies by ship twice a year -- in December and March -- with the occasional flight from Chile.

The 1959 Antarctic Treaty sets aside the continent as a nature reserve devoted to peace and science and bases have over the years stopped eating fresh wildlife. Seals were shot at Rothera for dog food until 1994 when dogs were banned from Antarctica to protect the environment.

But a 1950s recipe book at the base run by the British Antarctic Survey gives an insight into life as it used to be, with staff making penguin egg omelettes or cooking seal hearts.

"Seal brains ... I would consider one of the delicacies and luxuries of the Antarctic, and was enjoyed by most members of the base when I was chef," the unnamed author wrote.

In a chapter on seal brains, he listed recipes for fried seal brains, seal brains au gratin, brain fritters, seal brain omelette and savoury seal brains on toast. The cook must be a man -- there were no British women in Antarctica at the time.

He also said cormorants, or shags, are delicious. "My advice is if you see any around, take a ... rifle and knock a few off. It is a very meaty bird and one is enough for about six people."

The author said he did not like penguin but that many also considered it a delicacy. Young penguins taste best, the book says. Some say it tastes like a fishy version of chicken.

Sherwood, aged 49, has giant freezers and stores with tonnes of supplies for the base which can have up to 100 people at a time. He and a colleague make three meals a day and mid-morning and mid-afternoon snacks known as "smoko."

Choices for lunch at the weekend included pea and ham soup, chicken with pesto, fish in batter, rice, chips, and a variety of salads. Sherwood has worked seven Antarctic summers and in between returns to England to a job as a caterer.

"You look out the window in the UK and you've got last night's empty wine bottles and black bags in a dumpster. Here you've got icebergs rolling by," he said of his view from the kitchen.

The next big meals will be when Dutch Crown Prince Willem-Alexander and his wife Princess Maxima visit in February.

(Editing by Katie Nguyen)

Pic and story courtesy of Reuters UK@

Time for a break and a cupcake, eh?

All delicacies courtesy of Cupcakes Take the Cake

Patagonia to the Pampas

New Special from the Beeb!

The first of a new series, Explore: Patagonia to the Pampas takes a journey through the spectacular landscapes of Argentina, from the vast ice fields of Patagonia to the wide open plains of the Pampas.

In her search for some of Argentina's more eccentric inhabitants, Tanya Datta meets penguin researcher, Mike Bingham.

Explore, a new travel-based journalism series, provides an insight into exotic parts of the world, revealing stories about the environment, globalisation, and politics. Patagonia to the Pampas is on BBC Two at 2100 GMT, on Sunday, 25 January.

(Also note that a great little video can be found at this website, too.)
Pic courtesy of Flickr

Lyric Theater Penguins from Long Ago

1942 Lyric Theater schedule courtesy of Neatocoolville@

Caffe Pinguini Penguin Contest

This Just In: Caffe Pinguini launches penguin-naming contest

Penguin Penguins aren't often associated with Italian food. But at Caffe Pinguini in Playa del Rey, the cuddly creature from the freezing (no, melting) south, is on the restaurant's sign and serves as its mascot.

Owners Enrico Fiorentinio and Tony Cotrufo (who both hail from sunny Rome) say that the penguin came with the deal when they bought the restaurant 11 years ago. However, as time passes, people keep asking about the provenance of the sleek little beast.

Looking to come up with a credible tale Fiorentinio and Cotrufo are turning to the dining public to come up with a name for the penguin. They will take suggestions through Jan. 31 and announce the winning name on Feb. 2. (Yes, that's Groundhog Day, but given global warming perhaps penguins would prove a better indicator of the length of winter's stay.)

Participants can send names to The winner will receive a Caffe Pinguini lunchbox and a $100 gift certificate to dine at the restaurant.

Caffe Pinguini, 6935 Pacific Ave., Playa del Rey. (310) 306-0117.

Updated, 4:01 p.m.: A previous incarnation of this post said that penguins are from the north. An incredibly irate flightless aquatic bird wrote from Antarctica to inform me that he does not frolic on the North Pole. It was hard to take him seriously because he sounded like Morgan Freeman, but I extend my apologies to penguins everywhere.

-- Jessica Gelt

Photo: Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times @

The Bremerhaven Penguin Situation

The Bremerhaven Zoo in Germany has discovered that three penguin couples have turned out to be all male. Thinking that perhaps they would grow out of this phase, or there weren't enough female penguins, zookeepers planned to introduce some new female penguins into the pond.

A local gay group protested "the organized and forced harassment through female seductresses" that the zoo was planning. And it worked. "Everyone can live here as they please," the zoo director stated and announced that the female penguins would be going elsewhere.

Story adapted from Socialite Life @

The Phobic Penguin, Kentucky

Come on in, the water’s lovely: Kentucky ponders whether to take the plunge while his friends flap around in their pool at Chester Zoo

His friends are more than happy to splash about in their icy pools – but for Kentucky the penguin, water holds a real chill.

The runt steadfastly refuses to take the plunge, causing his keepers no end of woe.

They've tried forcing Kentucky in to keep his feathers clean – but have resorted to pouring water on him.

'It's a bit too cold for him in the water, so he spends all his time on the rocks just walking around,' said Kentucky's keeper, Adam Stevenson.

'It's a bit of a pain having to go over to feed him because he won't go in the water but he's a real character and everyone at the zoo loves him.'

The Humboldt penguin was born small and has always had moulting problems – but he has won the hearts of those at Chester Zoo in Cheshire.

'I expected to see all the penguins flapping about in the water but there was one who wasn't having any of it,' said visitor Stacey Commons.

'He just sat there looking a bit lonely on his rock. He's really cute but I felt sorry for him. It's like a monkey who's scared of climbing trees.


LEEK, England, Jan. 22 (UPI) -- Keepers at a British zoo said a resident penguin with a fear of water has become a hit with curious park visitors.

Staff at Blackbrook Zoological Park in Leek, England, said 11-year-old Kentucky the Humbolt penguin developed a phobia of water because he was born a runt and had problems with losing feathers too quickly, making the water too cold for his comfort, The Sun reported Thursday.

"It's a bit too cold for him in the water, so he spends all his time on the rocks just walking around," said Adam Stevenson, the zoo's assistant bird keeper. "It's a bit of a pain having to go over especially to him to feed him because he won't go in the water, but he's a real character and everyone at the zoo loves him. We've got one of the biggest collections of birds in Europe here but Kentucky is a bit of a crowd pleaser."

"He has become quite famous because it's quite unusual for penguins not to like the water," he said.

Stevenson said keepers douse Kentucky with water at least twice a day to keep his feathers healthy and clean.

Stories courtesy of The Metro UK and @ (respectively)

Dudley Zoo Penguin Poll

Bob and Lucky take top spot in penguin poll

12:20pm Wednesday 21st January 2009

comment Comments (0) Have your say »

ANIMAL adopters have been rushing to p..p..p..pick up a penguin at Dudley Zoo as the birds come out on top.

Out of a 70-strong colony of rare Humboldt penguins, playful Bob and Lucky have proved the most popular in the zoo’s animal adoption scheme.

Dudley Zoo Chief Executive, Peter Suddock, said:” With 70 names to choose from, adopters really are spoilt for choice when it comes to penguins, but for some reason Bob and Lucky seem to be the ones they choose.

He added: “Arkwright, Mercutio and Waddle all have their admirers and Dippy, Torres and Petunia aren’t short of fans, but Bob and Lucky are out in front.”

The zoo’s penguins are highly endangered and the parent reared colony is now one of the largest in the UK, having helped found groups at wildlife collections across the country.

Animal adoptions costs £35 or £45 with a named plaque and can be purchased over the phone, online or at the Zoo’s safari gift shop.

For further details contact 01384 215313 or visit

Story and pix courtesy of the Dudley News @

A Very Penguiny Urban Legend

Penguin theft from Kelly Tarlton's? A very fishy tale
4:00AM Thursday Jan 22, 2009
By Alanah May Eriksen

Did you hear the one about the little boy who took a penguin home from Kelly Tarlton's?

If you did, it was a bit fishy.

The Auckland aquarium fends off several calls a week from members of the public and media organisations saying they'd heard about a boy with learning difficulties putting a penguin under his shirt and taking it home.

The story goes that his mother or caregiver did not notice her son had the creature until she took him home and put him in the shower or bath because he was wet and she thought he'd had an accident.

She supposedly returns to the bathroom minutes later to find her son lathering the creature with soap.

Other versions say that the boy put the penguin in his backpack.

Kelly Tarlton's spokeswoman Tessa Lawrence said the aquarium had never had an animal stolen since it opened in 1985. It would be impossible to take an animal from its enclosure inside the Antarctic Encounter - the public enter on a snowcat which can only be stopped in an emergency.

The story, which has appeared on Trade Me message boards and other sites, has been circulating for about five years and was always different, Ms Lawrence said. She fields up to five calls a week.

Last year staff had a bit of fun with the tale and put stuffed penguins in backpacks outside the gift shop.

Ms Lawrence said the story possibly originated from Edinburgh Zoo in Scotland.

"We get school groups and people through that say 'Oh I heard this story' but it never happened."

She said people often thought the species of the alleged stolen penguin was a blue or an emperor but only the king and the gentoo types inhabit the aquarium.

Story courtesy of the New Zealand Herald @

This One's for Keeps!

The penguin bride and bridegroom are dressed up for their "wedding ceremony" at East Lake Ocean World Park in Wuhan, capital of central China's Hubei Province, Jan. 21, 2009. A couple of penguines in oestrus got married amid the blessing of raisers and tourists on Wednesday.

The groom, called Little Brat, and his bride, Little Beauty, were dressed up by aquarium staff for the ceremony. The groom wore a tie and the bride was dressed in a red blouse as they stepped into their icy wedding room to the music of the Wedding March.

For their reception, the love birds enjoyed their favourite dish - spring fish.

(Xinhua/Wang Zhenwu)

Pictures courtesy of People Online @

Now for the real story behind the story:

Two gay penguins have been given a wedding ceremony as a reward for their exceptional parenting skills.

The inseparable couple at China's Polarland Zoo were originally shunned for stealing chick eggs from fellow "heterosexual" penguins but have proved their nurturing skills with abandoned eggs, The Sun has reported.

"We decided to give them two eggs from another couple whose hatching ability had been poor and they’ve turned out to be the best parents in the whole zoo," a keeper from the Harbin zoo was quoted as saying.

"They have been a good couple and deserved their reward."

Their reward was a lavish wedding ceremony — complete with a soundtrack of the 'Wedding March' and a banquet of spring fish.

One was dressed in a tie while the other sported a red jacket.

The happy couple is not the first to defy penguins' tradition of lifelong "straight" partnerships.

A pair of chinstrap penguins at New York's Central Park Zoo made headlines in 2004 for their "ecstatic behavior" including entwining their necks, singing to each other and having sex.

Silo and Roy were devoted to each other for six years, even trying to incubate a rock by sitting on it.

When zookeepers gave them a real egg to look after they successfully raised a female chick, Tango.

Story courtesy of MSN Nine in Australia @

Image of the Day

Snares Penguin, originally uploaded by Wayne & Sally.

(Eudyptes robustus)

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Image of the Day (bonus!)

PillowPenguin, originally uploaded by Flowermouse Design.

Okay, I had to post this one before I lost the link (silly penguin I am!).... but isn't this just the definition of cute?

Image of the Day

DSC_0344, originally uploaded by karl_csl.

Edinburgh Zoo Rock

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Emperors Face Extinction

[wiinterrr's note: and to think the former US president couldn't even add this species to the endangered list... thank goodness, he's out of there.]

Emperor penguins face extinction

Emperor penguins, whose long treks across Antarctic ice to mate have been immortalised by Hollywood, are heading towards extinction, scientists say.

Based on predictions of sea ice extent from climate change models, the penguins are likely to see their numbers plummet by 95% by 2100.

That level of decline could wreak havoc on the delicate Antarctic food chain.

The research is published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Emperor penguins, the largest species, are unique in that they are the only penguins that breed during the harsh Antarctic winters.

Colonies gather far inland after long treks across sea ice, where the females lay just one egg that is tended by the male. That means that the ice plays a major role in their overall breeding success.

What is more, the extent of sea ice cover influences the abundance of krill and the fish species that eat them - both food sources for the penguins.

Hal Caswell of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute and his colleagues used projections of sea ice coverage from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's (IPCC) last report.

In addition, they used a "population dynamics" model describing the mating patterns and breeding success of emperor penguins.

The model has been honed using 43 years' worth of observations of an emperor colony in Antarctica's Terre Adelie.

Slow learners

While there are a number of models and scenarios in the IPCC report, the team used only 10 of them - those that fit with existing satellite data on sea ice.

They then ran 1,000 simulations of penguin population growth or decline under each of those 10 climate scenarios.

The results suggest that by the year 2100, emperor penguins in the region are likely to experience a reduction in their numbers by 95% or more.

The likelihood of this occurring, according to the researchers, is at least a one-in-three chance and possibly more than eight out of 10.

Though the penguins could avert disaster by shifting their breeding patterns with the climate, the study's lead author Stephanie Jenouvrier said that was unlikely.

"Unlike some other Antarctic bird species that have altered their life cycles, penguins don't catch on so quickly," she said.

"They are long-lived organisms, so they adapt slowly. This is a problem because the climate is changing very fast."

'Conservative approach'

Several prior studies have shown that climate change can affect the reproduction and geographic distribution of species, but this is the first that makes predictions about the ultimate fate of a species as a whole.

"I don't see any reason not to take these predictions very seriously," said Dan Reuman, a population biologist at Imperial College London.

"The study is based on a wide range of climate forecasts, it takes a conservative approach, it's based on a large amount of data on penguin demography, and the model accurately forecasts the data that already exist."

Dr Reuman suggests that more of this kind of work should be done to understand the species-by-species effects of climate change, and thereby the influence on whole communities.

It is an idea echoed by Joel Cohen, head of the Laboratory of Populations at Rockefeller University.

"The emperor penguin is an important species in its own right, but the whole communities in which it's embedded are also of importance," he told BBC News.

The penguins also serve as a species that particularly draws attention to the crisis in their region, he added.

"They are to Antarctica what the polar bear is to the Arctic.

"This study takes our knowledge, puts it together, gives us some insights, arouses concern and suggests that we ought to be understanding this situation a lot better."
Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2009/01/26 22:52:10 GMT


Science News

Emperor Penguins March Toward Extinction?

ScienceDaily (Jan. 27, 2009) — Popularized by the 2005 movie “March of the Penguins,” emperor penguins could be headed toward extinction in at least part of their range before the end of the century, according to a paper by Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) researchers published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America.

The paper, co-authored by five researchers including WHOI biologists Stephanie Jenouvrier and Hal Caswell, uses mathematical models to predict the effect on penguins of climate change and the resulting loss of sea ice.

The research indicates that if climate change continues to melt sea ice at the rates published in the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the median population size of a large emperor penguin colony in Terre Adelie, Antarctica, likely will shrink from its present size of 3,000 to only 400 breeding pairs by the end of the century.

What’s more, the researchers calculate that the probability of a drastic decline (by 95 percent or more) is at least 40 percent and perhaps as much as 80 percent.

Such a decline would put the population at serious risk of extinction.

“The key to the analysis was deciding to focus not on average climate conditions, but on fluctuations that occasionally reduce the amount of available sea ice,” said Hal Caswell, who is noted for his work in mathematical ecology.

Sea ice plays a critical role in the Antarctic ecosystem – not only as a platform for penguins to breed, feed, and molt, but as a grazing ground for krill, tiny crustaceans that thrive on algae growing on the underside of the ice. Krill, in turn, are a food source for fish, seals, whales, and penguins.

One fluctuation and subsequent sea ice reduction in Terre Adelie during the 1970s led to a population decline in emperor penguins of about 50 percent.

The team led by Caswell and Jenouvrier developed a series of models to incorporate the effect of the fluctuations on the penguin life history and population growth or decline. The models used data collected by French scientists working in Terre Adelie beginning in the 1960s. Then, working with climate scientists, Jenouvrier, Caswell and their colleagues looked at IPCC climate models and found that these fluctuations are likely to become much more frequent as the climate changes over the next 100 years.

Because Jenouvrier and Caswell’s models were based on fluctuations rather than smooth trends, and because different IPCC models differ in their forecasts of future Antarctic climate, the results of the analysis incorporate uncertainty in the details of the future population growth, but the conclusions are not uncertain. “If the future behaves anything like the IPCC models predict, the Terre Adelie population will decline, probably dramatically,” said Jenouvrier

Certain predictions even suggested that the geographic range of Antarctic penguins may shrink following climate warming because the continent limits their movement south. Over the last 50 years, climate change has been most pronounced in the Antarctic Peninsula, where Terre Adelie is located. In the future, the Ross Sea—where sea ice actually has increased in recent years—may be the last sanctuary for penguins.

The WHOI research raises several questions for Antarctic researchers and those interested in conservation of penguins. One is what the march of this population toward extinction tells us about the prospects for the emperor penguin throughout its range. “This analysis focuses on a single population—that at Terre Adelie—because of the excellent data available for it. But patterns of climate change and sea ice in the Antarctic are an area of intense research interest now. It remains to be seen how these changes will affect the entire species throughout Antarctica,” said Caswell.

Another is the mechanism by which changes in sea ice affect the penguins. “The mechanisms are complex, and are an active area of research,” added Jenouvrier.

Yet another question is whether the penguins might adapt to changing conditions, perhaps by changing the timing of their breeding cycle. However, this does not seem to be happening. “Unlike some other Antarctic bird species that have altered their life cycles, penguins don’t catch on so quickly,” Jenouvrier said. “They are long-lived organisms, so they adapt slowly. This is a problem because the climate is changing very fast.”

The research was a collaboration between the mathematical ecology group at WHOI, led by Caswell, a group of French scientists from Expeditions Polaires Francaises and Institut Paul Emile Victor, and climate scientists from the National Center for Atmospheric Research and the National Snow and Ice Data Center. “The project was truly interdisciplinary,” said Jenouvrier, “which is critical for this kind of research.”

In the more immediate future, the study even might impact legal protections available for the emperor penguin. In December, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service issued a preliminary ruling declining to list the emperor penguin under the Endangered Species Act. Caswell said this ruling is still being evaluated and research presented in this paper will have to be considered.

He added that species threatened by climate change are among the most difficult conservation problems. Improving the situation will require global actions to address a truly global environmental problem.

Support for this work was provided by the UNESCO/L'OREAL Women in Science program and the National Science Foundation.

Journal reference:

1. Jenouvrier et al. Demographic models and IPCC climate projections predict the decline of an emperor penguin population. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Jan 26, 2009; DOI: 10.1073/pnas.0806638106 (Download HERE)

Adapted from materials provided by Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.

Need to cite this story in your essay, paper, or report?

Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. "Emperor Penguins March Toward Extinction?." ScienceDaily 27 January 2009. 28 January 2009 .

Image of the Day

Antarctica-2004-0681, originally uploaded by rick ligthelm.

South Georgia Newsletter, December 2008

What's new from South Georgia Island? Try these snippets:

Gentoo Chick Mortality

(A detailed report can be downloaded as a pdf HERE.

Visitors to South Georgia this season have reported that many of the Gentoo Penguin colonies are showing signs of high chick mortality. In some cases there are no chicks at all in colonies.

The Government of South Georgia has tasked scientists to collect samples of dead chicks. Diet sampling of adults is also taking place as part of longer-term monitoring which was already underway at two locations on the island.

Preliminary investigations suggest that the mortality is caused by lack of food. Gentoo penguins feed on krill which moves around in the current of the southern ocean after spawning under Antarctic ice. There have been other indications that there is a scarcity of krill around South Georgia this season, although other species which feed on krill do not appear to be affected to the same extent.

Krill is only fished in South Georgia outside the breeding season in winter months (May – August) and the swarms which are targeted will already have moved away from the Island in the currents. Krill abundance tends to be cyclical. The present lack of krill is most likely to be caused by a poor spawning season further south. The last three recorded instances of such high chick mortality were in 1991, 1994 and 1998.

As a precaution, all visitors have been asked to remain up to 200m away from gentoo colonies. This will ensure surviving birds do not suffer any undue stress from external pressures. If further research reveals a disease is identified this will also help to minimise the risk of spreading pathogens.

Excerpts from the South Georgia Society's Newsletter of December 2008 @

Another hearty thanks goes to Paul,from NZ, for the heads-up! :)

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Cheeky chick comes to town

Cheeky chick comes to town
Sam Sachdeva - The Press | Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Not at home: A penguin was found at the Antigua Boatsheds yesterday morning.

It may not be able to talk, surf or tap dance, but a penguin still managed to attract attention after making it all the way into the central city via the Avon River.

The white-flippered penguin chick was "detained" by police after being spotted by a concerned citizen near the Avon River boatsheds yesterday morning. "He saw it looking very lost near the boatsheds and was a little worried that the ducks might try to get at it, so he brought it in to the station," Sergeant Graham Duncan said.

Police rang the Department of Conservation (DOC), and "allowed its release into [the] protective custody" of two DOC workers who came to the station shortly before 9am.

DOC ranger Anita Spencer said the white-flippered penguin was a rare, local sub-species of the blue penguin.

"They are endangered and have been recognised as nationally vulnerable, and we have been involved in efforts to conserve them," Spencer said.

She said the penguin was in good condition and perky, and was jumping around in the box that the DOC workers placed it in.

While penguin chicks did turn up in rivers and at beaches at this time of year, it was unusual that this one had made it so far up the Avon.

"It's most likely gone upriver chasing fish and gone off-track at some point," Spencer said.

"It probably would have found its own way back, but given the amount of plastic debris in the Avon it was a wise decision to take it out."

Spencer said the discovery was a reminder that people needed to be mindful of running into penguins near a river or at the beach. "Dog-owners in particular need to make sure their dogs are leashed on beaches, because otherwise they can hare into the dunes and disturb a penguin burrow without anyone knowing."

DOC released the penguin back into the wild at Kaitorete Spit at Birdlings Flat.

Story courtesy of Stuff NZ @

Special thanks to Paul in NZ for the heads up on this article. :)

Image of the Day

Fly !!, originally uploaded by lat66.33s.

Adelie penguin / ANTARCTICA

Monday, January 26, 2009

Image of the Day

Penguin, originally uploaded by corhob.

Taken at Chester Zoo Cheshire England

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Image of the Day

悪だくみ3人組, originally uploaded by alde.

Aburatsubo Marine Park

Image of the Day - Saturday

Otago Peninsula, originally uploaded by catbutler.

Yellow-eyed Penguin, a rare breed of penguin that nests on the Otago Peninsula

Friday Videos (yes, it's Sunday-sigh!)

Due to a terrible internet connection, this penguin had no access to the net for two days-gasp!-so now, I play catch up. Yes? Yes.


This week's Pencognito!

HAHAHA! Hilarious! Please visit Jen and all the pengies HERE

Friday, January 23, 2009

Image of the Day

Snares Created Penguin up tree, originally uploaded by Dandyfine.

Penguins in trees? YES... a Snares at that, too.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Monday, January 19, 2009

Image of the Day

Fly!, originally uploaded by zach-o-matic.

Aquarium of the Americas
New Orleans, LA

Sunday, January 18, 2009

The Problem with Donny and Skipper

Melbourne Aquarium's male penguins a little too close for comfort

Terry Brown

January 09, 2009 12:00am

FOR males in a breeding program, Donny and Skipper aren't exactly getting with the program.

The boys like the flashy jewelery and bright clothes of the thousands of visitors who flock to see them.

They are in touch with their feminine side.

That's fine. Their keeper, Sarina Walsh, says all Melbourne Aquarium's king penguins are like that.

But recently the pair have become just a little too close for comfort, at least for the comfort of one young lady with her beak out of joint.

The males haven't quite reached sexual maturity.

Their enclosure isn't Brokeback Icefloe, yet. But their fondness for each other and casual disregard for female company has already raised eyebrows and earned them a slapping.

Billie, a try-hard girl who trails the pair around the ice, is becoming frustrated by the lack of attention.

"She's definitely showing off," Ms Walsh says. "She'll usually start it up by standing up really tall, stretching her neck out as much as she can to look as beautiful as she can."

When charm fails, as it has, Billie takes a more direct approach.

"She gives them a bit of a slap with the wing sometimes, if they are not paying enough attention."

Donny, Skipper, Billie and the other king penguins Terry and Burger have known each other since they were hatched.

In the wild, they would live in the southern Antarctic. Melbourne's five came from an Auckland aquarium where they were bred.

Aged between two and five years old, they are, in penguin terms, teenagers.

Ms Walsh suspects Donny and Skipper might have bonded through moulting at the same time.

"Moulting is not pleasant. They get fat and they get very grumpy. Those two went through moulting together. Maybe it made them have the closeness?

"They follow each other around now, with the female right behind them.

"Billie might give up soon and try with the other male (Burger)."

She is not alone in being confused by the names.

"Often they get male or female names because we don't know what sex they are until they're DNA tested. You can't tell at all by looking."

So, can Donny and Skipper tell the difference?

"I don't know," Ms Walsh says. "They usually figure out who they should be mating with."

Story courtesy of the Herald Sun @,27574,24889528-2862,00.html

The penguin breeding program at the Melbourne Aquarium has encountered a problem, with two males in the program spurning the advances of a resident female. See video HERE

Touristas May Be Infringing Penguin Space

Zoologists look at tourist behaviour

By Mark Price on Tue, 13 Jan 2009
News: Dunedin

Doc volunteer warden Pat Dean believes there is still room to improve signs. Photo by Gregor Richardson.

Two University of Otago zoology graduates are stationed at Sandfly Bay on the Otago Peninsula this summer, not to study the bay's yellow-eyed penguins but the bevaviour of the humans who come to visit them.

The study is designed to help find out why tourists go to the bay, what they do there and how they interact with its wildlife.

Last year, a study of the penguins found they were under stress from being disrupted by human visitors and, as a result, the Department of Conservation introduced better facilities for visitors, more signs and it also set up a group of volunteer wardens.

To gauge the effectiveness of these measures, science graduates Kate Beer and Aviva Stein are observing the movement of visitors and interviewing as many as they can as part of research being carried out by Dr Philip Seddon.

The results will be compared with a similar survey done in the summer of 2002-03.

One of the volunteer wardens who patrol the beach, Pat Dean, said that despite signs at the entrance to the beach, many visitors lacked an appreciation of how important it was to give the penguins space.

Visitors usually timed their visit to view adult penguins as they returned from the sea in the evening to feed their chicks.

However, the penguins would not proceed if people were nearby on the beach, and that left chicks to go hungry.

"Most nights when it's busy, you would see at least one bird come and go [without feeding its chick] because there's a person on the beach.

"And that's just what I see."

Mrs Dean is one of seven volunteers who try to cover every evening during the summer.

All tourists spoken to by the Otago Daily Times were concerned for the welfare of the penguins, but most did not know how best to avoid disrupting the birds.

Signs advise visitors to stay 200m away from any penguins, stay out of the sand dunes and walk to the viewing hide to watch the penguins come ashore.

Mrs Dean said the signs did not get the information across to many visitors and she believed they could be improved.

But, she said, although wardens had no enforcement powers, visitors almost invariably responded well when approached.

"People are good if you say they've got chicks in there."

Last year's study by PhD student Ursula Ellenberg showed even careful visitors to nest sites cause a doubling of the penguin's heart rate, with the birds needing up to half an hour to recover.

As a result, chicks can suffer and birds could abandoned their nests.

Mrs Dean said sometimes tourists with cameras disappeared into the dunes, where nests could be, but she did not pursue them so as not to "double the damage".

Now into her second summer, Mrs Dean said she had had only one problem visitor, a Dunedin man, who insisted on getting close to penguins in a "David Attenborough" style approach.

Mrs Dean said tourists often lacked the patience to wait late into the evening to see penguins emerge from the sea.

"Some of them want to see a bird now because they can only stay another five minutes. I need a radio controlled one, I reckon."

Story courtesy of the Otago Daily Times

The Blue Penguin of Hill St.

Hill St's small blue

By DELWYN DICKEY - Rodney Times | Wednesday, 14 January 2009

A wayward little blue penguin caused a commotion at the notorious Hill St intersection in Warkworth on Friday morning.

Local veterinarian Ross Lynch was getting out of his truck after arriving at his Elizabeth St business close to the problem intersection with State Highway One, when a passing motorist asked if it was normal for a penguin to be in the middle of the road.


Due to copyright restrictions, you can read the rest of this nice little story HERE

A Virus Invades Auster Rookery

A virus amongst the penguins

Despite its perceived isolation, Antarctica has been invaded by many non-native species, including pathogens. It is not surprising that wildlife in Antarctica could acquire parasites and diseases, but recent evidence of a common poultry virus in emperor penguins has captured scientific interest. Dr Gary Miller and his colleagues have been investigating the origin, spread and nature of the virus in emperor penguins at Auster Rookery.

Dr.Gary Miller's van at Auster Rookery; he is investigating the origin, spread and nature of a common poultry virus amongst penguins at Austrer Rookery, near Mawson.
Photo: Gary Miller

Diseases and parasites have been detected in Antarctic wildlife populations for as long as scientists have observed and collected samples from them. However, it was not until the 1997 discovery of antibodies to Infectious Bursal Disease Virus (IBDV) in a high percentage of emperor penguin (Aptenodytes forsteri) chicks at Auster Rookery (through research led by Australian Antarctic Division veterinary biologist, Heather Gardner), that disease in Antarctic wildlife was connected with the presence of people in Antarctica.

Dr Gardner and her colleagues suggested that because Auster Rookery is relatively close to Mawson station, the penguins may have been exposed to this common poultry disease through contact with humans or their cargo. In support of this theory, they found no antibodies to IBDV in adult Adélie penguins from Edmonson Point – a more remote colony in the Ross Sea.

However, it is difficult to reconcile that a high percentage of emperor penguin chicks are exposed to IBDV through human contact when you look at their natural history. Emperor penguin colonies live on floating sea ice, and their eggs hatch in the middle of winter, when there is no transport of goods from outside the continent and few personnel are at Mawson station. During the summer months, when most human activity occurs, the penguins are away at sea. In many years the ice from the colony area melts completely, so there is no environment in which the virus can live.

Gary catches an emperor penguin with his shepherd's crook.
Photo: Robyn Mundy

Given these findings and a growing concern for threats to the Antarctic environment, the Australian Antarctic Division hosted a workshop in 1998 to discuss the threats to Antarctic wildlife posed by the possible introduction of diseases. Discussions at the workshop showed that there is a need to understand how diseases persist and the effects they may have on populations. My colleague, Professor Geoff Shellam, and I participated in the workshop and have since been studying the presence of various pathogens in Adélie penguins, South Polar skuas, and now, emperor penguins in Antarctica.

From our recent work we know that adult South Polar skuas in the Davis area are exposed to more diseases than the Adélie penguins there, and at higher rates. We believe that migratory birds, particularly South Polar skuas, may transmit disease to other Antarctic bird species. Because skuas travel outside the Antarctic ecosystem during the austral winter and are well known scavengers and predators, they may pick up diseases outside Antarctica. Their close association with penguins therefore creates an ideal opportunity for transmission of exotic disease to the penguins.

Our more recent testing revealed 96% of emperor penguin chicks near Edmonson Point had antibodies to IBDV. Similar high prevalences of antibodies to IBDV were found in emperor penguin chicks at Auster Rookery (93%) and Amanda Bay (100%). These results contradict the theory arising out of the 1997 research that IBDV is less prevalent in isolated colonies of emperor penguins. As research has also shown that Adélie penguins in the Vestfold Hills have no antibodies to IBDV, but South Polar skuas do (7-17 % in different years), there are now more questions than answers.

To address this issue we designed our current project with the primary goal to determine the status and origin of diseases in emperor penguins at Auster Rookery. We have focused on IBDV, but will also test the penguins for a suite of other common poultry diseases, such as avian influenza, Newcastle disease and some common bacteria.

Gary (left)and a colleague wrap up a penguin for sampling.
Photo: Robyn Mundy

The plan is to capture and sample both adults and chicks at four times over winter, to isolate and describe the pathogens. Each penguin will be weighed and various samples taken – two fecal swabs (one for viruses, one for bacteria), one throat swab, and blood from a vein in the flipper – using methods approved by the Antarctic Animal Ethics Committee. Importantly, we will investigate the role that adults play in transmitting IBDV to their chicks.

As this article goes to press, we are most of the way through our sampling effort. The first samples were taken in May during the courtship and egg-laying period, when the birds were in peak condition, having just returned from several months foraging. The second samples were taken from adults in early August, when the chicks were just hatching. These two sets of samples will allow us to determine the disease status of adults before there is a chance to transmit pathogens to their chicks.

The third samples were taken from the chicks in early October, when they were old enough to be left alone at the colony. This is a particularly important sample set because it is the first one of chicks taken before skuas and giant petrels (potential disease vectors) return to the area.

The final samples will be taken from adults and chicks in the early summer. This will coincide with the sampling time from the 1997 study and will occur after skuas and giant petrels have returned to the area.

An emperor penguin is wrapped in a jacket so that samples can be taken from its mouth and cloaca. A jacket protects the penguin while still allowing Gary to collect samples. Photo: Robyn Mundy

This sampling regime should allow us to determine when IBDV first appears in the colony and how the chicks become exposed to it. The expected high prevalence of IBDV indicates that we should be able to isolate the virus and discover its origin by means of RNA (ribonucleic acid) sequencing. No IBDV has been isolated from any Antarctic species, but it is known that IBDV can infect penguins in captivity. In 2002, researchers isolated an avian Birnavirus from captive African black-footed penguins (Spheniscus demersus) and macaroni penguins (Eudyptes chrysolophus). Those isolates were later identified as IBDV.

If we can isolate IBDV and sequence the RNA, we will be able to completely characterise the virus. The RNA sequence will tell us if it is the same as other known strains of IBDV, or whether the Antarctic variety is different. It is safe to say that this is an important key to the puzzle of how disease gets to Antarctica.

We will have to wait until we return to Australia in March to complete our analyses.
We will test blood serum samples for the presence of antibodies to IBDV and a number of other viruses in the virology lab at the Western Australian Department of Agriculture. We will also culture a fecal swab for a few important bacteria at the University of Western Australia and we will send fecal and throat swabs for RNA sequencing to Dr Daral Jackwood, an expert on IBDV at Ohio State University in the United States. We should have results by June 2009 – about the time the emperor penguins start the breeding cycle again.

Even if our results indicate that the IBDV in emperor penguins has been in Antarctica for some time and, therefore, is not related to human intervention, the study will provide an important, detailed description of the types of pathogens to which the penguins are being exposed. As natural and human-mediated changes to the Antarctic environment continue to occur, it is important to understand the current status and dynamics of disease in Antarctic penguins. Our project, in combination with the earlier study on IBDV, will provide a baseline that can be used to compare any disease-related changes in the future.


University of Western Australia
Story courtesy of AAD @