- From: news.com.au
- January 28, 2011
- Rare photo of 100 penguins in grief
- Penguins "mourning in a human-like way"
- Photographer says sight "heart-wrenching"
WHEN a child dies, the community mourns.This is true for humans — and penguins, too.
Wildlife photographer Daniel J Cox has captured an extraordinary image of more than 100 Emperor Penguins mourning their lost chicks in Antarctica.
The animals, scattered across the ice into the distance, are either lying down or hunched over in a human-like expression of grief.
Cox said he didn't know why the chicks died, but he had been advised it was not unheard of.
"Weather and things like starvation, if there is a food shortage, can cause this kind of sad event," he told the Daily Mail.
"Part of my job is to accept that with the spectacular sights of nature also come the stark facts of life."
In one of Cox's images, a lone adult penguin can be seen walking amongst the bodies of chicks frozen to the ground on the Riiser Larsen Ice Shelf.
"To see Emperor Penguins mourning in a human-like way over the death of their chicks is heart-wrenching," Cox said.
"They hunch over like they are in a state of grief and they wander around the frozen ice wastes attempting to locate their chicks."
The penguins' mourning — rarely observed, let alone photographed — would be compounded by the sacrifices made to raise their young.
The Emperor Penguin, a serially monogamous species, invests a lot of time and care into its offspring. It journeys up to 120km over the Antarctic ice during winter to breed — the only animal to do so in the freezing region's coldest season.
The female lays just one egg each season, which is carefully incubated by the male for two months while the mother feeds. The male will not eat, and can lose over 10kg during this incubation phase which includes rotating huddles with other males to preserve body heat against the harsh winds.
Freshly hatched chicks completely rely on their parents for warmth and food in the first two months. If they survive the unforgiving climate, Emperor penguins can have a lifespan of 20 years or more.