Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Image of the Day

Humboldt penguin by the_bman
Humboldt penguin, a photo by the_bman on Flickr.

Walking the walk for penguins

ca Waddle day 6 Halye and Robynn
Hayley McLellan of the Two Oceans Aquarium and Robynn Ingle-Moller of the Pretoria Zoo march towards the finish of the Waddle for a Week.


PENGUIN colonies from Gansbaai to Simon’s Town had some unusual company over the past five days: a group of conservationists dressed in black and white who waddled 122km to raise awareness about the plight of the African penguin.
Animal behaviourists Hayley McLellan from the Two Oceans Aquarium and Gabby Harris of Durban’s uShaka Marine World, along with a support team, set off on their Waddling for a Week trip last week as a visible and fun way of getting people talking about the highly endangered species.
Their journey ended in Simon’s Town on Saturday, at Boulders Beach, a site famous for its penguin colony.
Waddlers from several institutions joined McLellan and Harris at various stages. Some of the institutions represented included the National Zoological Gardens in Pretoria, Sanccob and Gold Reef City.
Two Oceans Aquarium spokeswoman Renee Leeuwner said the waddlers had tackled the final leg of their walk with the help of a group of penguin enthusiasts who joined them on the 15km from Surfer’s Corner in Muizenberg to the Boulders Beach Lodge on Saturday.
“The rain also joined in, but this did not deter the group and by Saturday the waddlers had become quite accustomed to walking in the rain as they had experienced typical Cape Town winter weather thoughout their trek,” said Leeuwner.
“Arriving at the finish, everyone was certainly relieved, but also very proud and with hope. Along the entire walk, the waddlers met like-minded and -hearted individuals,” she said.
The waddle was part of Penguin Promises, a campaign to get people talking about African penguins and to teach them about bigger threats to penguin populations, including overfishing and pollution.
The campaign is not asking people for money, but wants volunteers to adopt at least one pro-penguin behaviour, ranging from working with conservation organisations to buying more local products and less plastic. 

Monday, May 30, 2011

Image of the Day

On watch. by Ashley Bard
On watch., a photo by Ashley Bard on Flickr.

Rockhopper profile for someone I know who likes those Rocks. :-)

Want to meet the penguins? Here's a way to break the ice

May 27, 2011
The Melbourne Aquarium announced that the public has an opportunity to sit in the Penguin enclosure with the penguins. Picture Penny Stephens. 

Penguins on parade


The Melbourne Aquarium announced that the public has an opportunity to sit in the Penguin enclosure with the penguins. Picture Penny Stephens.

Melbourne Aquarium yesterday launched the Penguin Passport experience, in which patrons don serious snow gear and get a taste of the Antarctic as they mingle with Gentoo and King penguins.
They also can visit off-limits quarantine areas and learn about the technology that maintains the exhibit's subzero temperatures.

Macquarie Island Cleanup--An Interview

ANNE KRUGER, PRESENTER: Hello, I'm Anne Kruger, welcome to Landline.

By now the mercury's dropped sharply in many parts of southern Australia. Indeed, it's been cold enough for snow in the Alps. But spare a thought for those who live and work in the deep south on rugged Macquarie Island in the sub Antarctic.

Last month a team of specialists from Australia, including a dozen sniffer dogs, landed on the world heritage-listed island to start a 5 year, $25 million pest eradication program.

They will be targeting rats and rabbits to give native vegetation and the penguin seals and sea birds who breed there a break.

ABC reporter Tracy Bowden prepared this special report for Landline.

ONSCREEN: Out of bounds

(Waves crash against rugged rocky outcrops)

TRACY BOWDEN, REPORTER: Macquarie Island is one of the most remote land masses on earth, a windswept spot in the middle of the Southern Ocean about halfway between Tasmania and Antarctica.

The island is 34 kilometres long and five kilometres wide.

Its rugged beauty and diverse wildlife touch all those who make the long journey here.

JAMIE DOUBE, EXPEDITION MEDICAL OFFICER: It's a pretty amazing place to live from a biological point of view. It's almost like living in some sort of nature documentary. There are so many animals packed in such a small space.

(King penguins huddle together on the rocks)

Many of the seals, the albatrosses and similar birds - and many species of penguin that may feed further south - want to lay their eggs on the last bit of sort of normal, green-covered dirt rather than ice, and that's what Macquarie Island represents.

ROB CLIFTON, VOYAGE LEADER: It is this amazing place with a dynamic weather system and wildlife absolutely everywhere. And it's very raw, the place is incredibly raw.

TRACY BOWDEN: This really is a remarkable spot. The penguins- these are king penguins, one of the species on the island, and they just wander right up to you, clearly not at all afraid.

Elephant seals are flopping all over the beach but their environment is under threat.

(Long shots of Macquarie Island landscape)

ROB CLIFTON: The damage that has been done to the natural environment here is just staggering - literally brings tears to people's eyes who know the place and know what the landscape looks like.

TRACY BOWDEN: A massive operation coordinated by the Tasmanian Parks and Wildlife Service and funded by the Tasmanian and Federal Governments hopes to address the problem once and for all. The goal is to eradicate three non-native species from the island: ships rats, house mice and rabbits.

Keith Springer is the project manager.

KEITH SPRINGER, ERADICATION PROJECT MANAGER: The only way to allow the vegetation and native wildlife to recover is to remove the impacts of those invasive species.

TRACY BOWDEN: The sealers who came to Macquarie Island in the early 1800s have a lot to answer for.

First they hunted fur seals to the point of extinction, then they began hunting elephant seals. Next, penguins.

(Large cylindrical devices rust in the grass)

Believe it or not these are penguin digesters.

Back in the 1800s hunters would corral any penguins that were in this area, shove them into the top of the device, boil them up overnight and then the oil was drawn off into barrels which became heating oil.

JAMIE DOUBE: Up to 2,000 penguins were stacked into one digester at a time. Now it does seem barbaric and pretty horrific to us but I suppose we have to remember that this was before we had much mineral oil.

So if we wanted to have oil to run our lamps or oil to rub into our jackets to make them waterproof or to protect our ropes or to lubricate our cart bearings we needed oil, and at that stage we were using oil from animals.

TRACY BOWDEN: Then in the 1870s the sealers introduced the European rabbit to the island as an alternative food source.

KEITH SPRINGER: Their diet was very limited, sort of salt pork and bully beef and ships biscuits and that sort of thing, and what they could get from penguins and seals. So rabbits were a very welcome form of alternative food for them.

So I guess they just didn't have the foresight or maybe the values to think of what those rabbits might do to the island once the sealers had left.

TRACY BOWDEN: But by the 1970s there were more than 100,000 rabbits on the island.

They wreaked havoc with the vegetation, causing soil erosion and destroying nesting burrows. Myxomatosis reduced the population for a time but the rabbits developed immunity and their numbers again grew.

STEVE AUSTIN, DOG TRAINER: I think it's ... first to say I think we're making history. I think this is the first dog training ever in the middle of the Great Southern Ocean.

TRACY BOWDEN: As they head south for Macquarie Island on board the ice-breaker the Aurora Australis, 12 key members of the eradication team are being put through their paces by trainer Steve Austin.

STEVE AUSTIN: First thing we're going to do is get some dogs on some steadiness. This has taken a lot of dogs to get here.

I mean, what you see now is the end result of probably 40 or 50 or 60 dogs that have gone through processes that haven't made it. These dogs are the cream of the crop.

These are the SAS of dog or rabbit dogs, you know.

(To handlers) Stay your dogs!

Good. Praise them, good dogs.

They won't be killing anything on the island. Their job is to detect where the rabbit is sleeping or laying up, where the urine and where the dropping is.

TRACY BOWDEN: The dogs' work will come later. First a team of four helicopters distributes hundreds of bait pods across the island ready for aerial baiting.

The bait is in cereal-based pellets and contains the toxin brodifacoum, an anti coagulant often used in domestic rat poison. Three hundred tonnes of bait will be used.

Macca, as the locals call it, has never been busier. Normally there would be about a dozen people working here at the Australian Antarctic Division research base but the eradication program means that this year there's more than three times that number.

(lush, tall grass within fenced area, surrounded by close cropped expanses)

This is a really clear example of the damage done by the rabbits. This small area has been fenced off and shows the sort of vegetation you'd normally expect to be all over these hillsides, including the Macquarie Island cabbage.

But if you look up the hill, a mass of rabbit warrens. This is the damage they've done.

Thanks to relatively fine weather, the program is off to a good start. Ninety per cent of the island has now undergone the first bait drop.

IVOR HARRIS, OUTGOING STATION MANAGER: This year we've proceeded the aerial baiting program with distribution of the rabbit calicivirus, which has already had a very significant impact. So we know we've already reduced the rabbit numbers very considerably.

TRACY BOWDEN: The aerial baiting is being staged at this time of year because there are fewer native animals on the island which could be harmed, but project manager Keith Springer said there will be collateral damage.

KEITH SPRINGER: The death of some birds in this case can be expected, so it's a reality that we needed to accept early on. We have long term goals for the project and so, you know, in 50 years time, for example, and onwards, with the benefits to those species have accrued to the point that the mortality in the first instance is outweighed.

TRACY BOWDEN: The program is not without its critics. Last year baiting was stopped due to bad weather but not before hundreds of native birds were killed.

It's also been suggested that the eradication of cats on the island a decade ago was a mistake which only made the rabbit problem worse.

There was a suggestion that mismanagement was a part of this because the cats were eradicated and then you had an extra problem with the rabbits.

KEITH SPRINGER: I think it was a factor but it would be an oversimplification of the situation to suggest that that was the reason, and it may not even have been a strong reason.

TRACY BOWDEN: The specially trained dogs from Australia and New Zealand are settling into the place which could be home for several years.

This is quite a scene, seeing dogs just a few metres away from penguins and not flinching, what's this exercise all about?

STEVE AUSTIN: This exercise, Trace, is to make sure when the dogs are working around native wildlife at Macquarie that they don't go anywhere near them and don't have any attempt to hurt them. So it's very important, and probably the most difficult part of the training the dogs have to go through.

TRACY BOWDEN: So what would a dog's instinct be when it saw a penguin normally?

STEVE AUSTIN: We'll leave the niceties out of it, I suppose - probably grab one, maybe. Being a labrador, a springer - pheasants and partridges. It's all in their nature to go out and bring the bird back to the table, you know?

So it was very difficult for Gus and I to train the dogs to ignore those- all sorts of birds.

(To Gus) I reckon all that rabbit sign is going along that bottom basin, they've been coming down towards that sand.

TRACY BOWDEN: It's anticipated that the aerial baiting won't be enough and that's where the dogs come in.

Their job is to track down any remaining rabbits.

(Yellow lab tracks across a hillside)

GARY BOWCOCK, DOG HANDLER: There is a rabbit down in that hole. She's telling me that there's something in there, it's a rabbit and that's what she's been trained on. She's scratching it out, wanting to get down to it.

TRACY BOWDEN: Dog handler and veteran rabbit hunter Gary Bowcock will spend the next 12 months on the island.

GARY BOWCOCK: We'll put some gas down the hole and then we'll block the hole and then that will gas the hole.

And we'll also GPS the area and then we go back and tell the hunters hey, there's some rabbits around this area and come back and deal with them.

And then they will use a variety of methods to do it, either shooting, night shooting, shooting in the daytime, putting out traps or putting out poison.

STEVE AUSTIN: It's not only finding the very few remaining rabbits but it's also motivating the dogs and the handlers to continue for a few more years to make sure there's nothing there and the motivation of the dogs and the handlers. Because you know, success is not finding a rabbit, that's success.

But as far as the dogs are concerned that's not success. So it's going to be some interesting times ahead.

GARY BOWCOCK: The calicivirus has taken a lot out so it's sort of a competition unofficially between everyone who's going to get the first rabbit and who's going to get the last one. So it's really exciting on that. Everyone's keen and roaring to go.

TRACY BOWDEN: This is a long-term project. Only after there have been no rabbit sightings on the island for two years can the team declare victory.

Now, control isn't enough. You need to remove every last rabbit, don't you?

KEITH SPRINGER: Any individual that remains means that we've failed in the entire project. So there's no half measures with success, and a single breeding pair left on the island of mice, rats or rabbits would mean that we've failed in that goal.

JAMIE DOUB: If something occurs here, if we do succeed at getting rid of the rabbits, it will make a difference to this place forever.

The vegetation behind us will come back to what should be the cabbage amongst the tussock. A lot of the animals that live burrowed in there- there's birds that now cannot live in there because they're eaten by the rats.

As soon as the rats go they will come back. We know that they will come back because they keep trying to come back. They've been trying to come back every year that I've been here but they can't succeed.

(Boat fog horn blares)

TRACY BOWDEN: As outgoing station leader Ivor Harris heads home, he ponders the future of the long awaiting program and of Macquarie Island.

More than $25 million, lots of people, lots of time, an enormous amount of effort. Some might say, is it worth it?

IVOR HARRIS: How do you place a dollar value on something that is as biologically unique and special as Macquarie Island? It's just an amazing place. It's the only one in the world like it, and if we can't look after Macquarie Island it will be a sad day.


Sunday, May 29, 2011

Penguin promises

Green Life

May 27, 2011 | By Tiara Walters

Action is needed if our local species is not to go the way of the dodo

UNDER THREAT: A pair of African penguins at Boulders Beach in Cape TownUNDER THREAT: A pair of African penguins at Boulders Beach in Cape Town 
UNDER THREAT: A pair of African penguins at Boulders Beach in Cape Town 
IN the early 1900s African penguins swarmed along the shores of southern Africa in their millions, but over the last half century their numbers have nose-dived so dramatically that they could vanish from our coastline before we realise they are in trouble.
"African penguins have declined by about 80% - from 141000 pairs in the 1950s to less than 25 000 pairs in 2010," according to Mark Anderson, CEO of conservation NGO Birdlife South Africa, who explained that oil spills, overfishing and predation by seals and gulls are among factors responsible for the dramatic crash in the species's population.
"In the past, African penguins were also affected by guano scraping as well as egg collection," he told Green Life.
South Africa's best-known African penguin colony, at Boulders Beach in the naval dorp of Simon's Town, was only occupied by the birds in 1983 with the reduction of commercial trawlers in the surrounding False Bay area. This beach - with its sheltered bay and proximity to recovering fish stocks - must've seemed like the Hamptons of the avian world to the newly arrived penguins.
These days, however, the African penguin's Boulders Beach idyll is also under threat. Scientists suspect that changing ocean temperatures as a result of climate change have been shifting the availability of sardines and anchovies - the African penguin's favourite food - farther afield.
"African penguins are being forced to swim much longer distances, to places like Cape Agulhas, to forage," says Birdlife South Africa's penguin project officer, Christina Moseley. "But this year the fish are moving back to the West Coast, so it's a complicated study that needs further interrogation."
Now a group of animal handlers from zoological and conservation organisations throughout the country are so worried about the African penguin's prospects that they have joined forces to stop this flightless bird from going the way of the dodo.
Comprising, among others, staff from uShaka Sea World, the Two Oceans Aquarium and the SA Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds, the campaigners left Gansbaai on Monday as part of an emergency coastal awareness trek - organised in under a month - that aims to put a spotlight on the problems that besiege the African penguin. The six-day pilgrimage covered 122km of Western Cape shoreline and marched through the coastal towns of Hermanus, Kleinmond, Betty's Bay, Pringle Bay, Gordon's Bay and Muizenberg before arriving in Simon's Town yesterday, just as National Bird Week drew to a close.
"The support we have rustled up has been overwhelming - but most South Africans have no clue about this species and how crucial it is. We think of the African penguin as an 'indicator' species - in other words, the moment we notice that it is in decline, this is also an indication that the environment is degrading, so we're asking that everyone makes a 'penguin promise' - eat less meat; drive less often; plant a veggie garden," said one of the trek's masterminds, Two Oceans bird trainer Hayley McLellan.
"The African penguin's minimum viable population is estimated to be 50000 pairs, but the current population is now less than half this critical threshold."
If we don't act, she said, the African penguin "could be extinct within 15 years".
  • www.penguinpromises.com
Facts and Figures
  • The largest penguin to walk the face of the Earth was Nordenskjoeld's giant penguin, which lived between Australia and Antarctica about45-million years ago. This gargantuan penguin stood 1.8m tall and weighed up to 90kg, which is about as tall and heavy as rugby Springbok Bryan Habana (1.8m; 94kg).
  • All modern penguins, whose height varies between 40cm and 1m, have evolved from Waimanu manneringi, a common ancestor that lived about 62-million years ago - some three million years before the dinosaurs met their catastrophic end.
  • Part fish, part bird, part seal, penguins are an evolutionary marvel that fly through the oceans as though they were flapping through an alternative sky. While all modern penguins are flightless, their wings indicate that they diverged many millions of years ago from an ancestor that was capable of flight. Today penguin wings are vestigial, which means that they have become redundant and morphed into flippers.
  • All penguins are native to the Southern Hemisphere, although there is a colony of around 1500 Galapagos penguins (pictured here) that live just north of the equator on the Galapagos Islands.
  • If ever the gay community were looking for a totem animal, the penguin could be it. Some penguins form lasting homosexual couples and in 2005 American writers Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson wrote a children's book about it. Based on the true story of Roy and Silo, two Central Park Zoo chinstrap penguins that raised their own chick, And Tango Makes Three courted controversy when the book made its way into the American heartland.
  • The African penguin only breeds on 25 islands and four mainland sites in SA and Namibia. It can live up to 25 years in captivity and up to 15 in the wild.
  • Penguins can survive at sea because they have a special gland in their nasal passages that filters salt and helps them drink sea water like the average South African male can knock back beer.
  • The World Conservation Union upgraded the African penguin's conservation status from vulnerable to endangered in June last year. Up to 50% of all eggs produced by the African penguin were collected as a delicacy until 1967 and Roberts Birds of Southern Africa records that 2.3-million eggs were collected between 1897 and 1905 alone. - Sources: Birdlife South Africa, various
  • Source 

Image of the Day


Friday, May 27, 2011

Wahoo! Happy Feet 2 Preview!

Can we get an "awwwww"?

Everyone's favorite syncopated penguins are swooshing back into theaters on Nov. 18, so we're happy to hook you up with this rap-happy teaser from Happy Feet 2.

In the 3-D sequel to the 2006 hit, Elijah Wood's Mumble is now a dad and—oh, dear!—his son Erik isn't much of a dancing fool. Instead, the little one becomes impressed with the flying Mighty Sven, to be cheekily voiced by Hank Azaria.

What is a grown-up Emperor Penguin who can't sing to do?!

As he looks to save the penguin world and win back his son's admiration, however, Mumble will have plenty of help from guru Ramon (Robin Williams), a couple of krills (Brad Pitt and Matt Damon) and a new lady on the floe named Carmen (Sofia Vergara).

Happy Feet 2 will also feature an original song from Pink and, we're gonna guess, lots of brilliant flipper-tapping dance routines.


The Penguin Beach at ZSL London Zoo

ZSL London Zoo’s new Penguin Beach opens tomorrow; I dodged rainshowers this morning to enjoy an exclusive preview.

As you can see from the pictures, the new penguin pool is much bigger than before. In fact, it’s five times larger, and three times deeper (at 2 metres) than the previous penguin pool. There are fantastic underwater viewing areas, so you can get really close to the penguins, and enjoy watching them “fly” underwater.

There are 66 penguins at the new Penguin Beach of different species:
  • Humboldt (from South America)
  • Macaroni (from Antarctica, with the yellowy plumes)
  • Black-footed (from Africa, close relatives of the Humboldt)
  • and the amazingly cute Rockhopper, called Ricky (who you can see doing his best rock hopping in the video below)
Behind the scenes, there’s a lot of the latest technology and zoology supporting this exciting new visitor attraction. There’s a nursery with a chick incubation unit, and a pool where the young penguins can learn to swim. Tom Hart, London Zoo’s penguinologist (it’s a real job!) hopes that together with ZSL, they’ll learn lots more about these endangered birds, their breeding habits and ways to improve their conservation.
Zoological Director David Field said, “This takes the zoo’s penguin tradition into a new era, allowing us to breed large colonies of threatened penguins in an amazing new habitat. Hopefully by witnessing how breathtaking these birds are we can encourage visitors to help protect them. We’re bringing penguin biology to the masses.”
At feeding time, you get a real taste (sorry!) for just how gorgeous these animals are as they dive and swim and splash after fish. Check out this slightly wobbly video for a sample of the new Penguin Beach:


Image of the Day

Got to get that spot right there!

The little penguin that wouldn't

Landlubbing sea bird refuses to swim

LANDLUBBER: Morgan, a white-flippered penguin and resident of the International Antarctic Centre, doesn't like to swim.

Morgan the penguin simply doesn't want to swim.

The white-flippered penguin is about 16-years-old and was found skinny and lost at Flea Bay, Banks Peninsula about three weeks ago.

Now in quarantine at Christchurch's International Antarctic Centre, Morgan is the first penguin staff have ever seen that refuses to swim.

When placed in water Morgan uses his beak and flippers to quickly haul himself out.

"This is a really unusual penguin. It is the first time we have ever seen a mature penguin that has come in from the wild and simply refuses to swim," said centre director Richard Benton.

Morgan also has a unique habit of flipping his water bowl upside down and standing on it, Benton said.
Penguin keeper Mallorie Hackett said Morgan was "full of character" and was "definitely a ladies man".
In 25 days' time he will be introduced to the centre's main penguin encounter, where Hackett hopes he will befriend Parnia, a single female white-flippered penguin.

White-flippered penguins are one of the smallest and most endangered penguins in the world.
They are endemic to Canterbury, breeding only on Banks Peninsula and Motonau Island.

- The Press


Thursday, May 26, 2011

Image of the Day

Ralph the penguin, sporting his new coat in lieu of his molted feathers. Isn't he cute?

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Waddling for a good cause

ca waddle done

An African penguin enjoys a snack at the Two Oceans Aquarium. The indigenous birds are the focus of a week-long waddle from Gansbaai to Cape Town, an exercise designed to raise awareness about the species vulnerability. Cheryl-Samantha Owen

Staff Reporter 

IF YOU’RE driving along the southern coast from Gansbaai to Cape Town this week and spot a convoy of people dressed in black and white, waddling alongside the road, don’t panic – it’s for a good cause.
Animal behaviourists Hayley McLellan from the Two Oceans Aquarium and Gabby Harris of Durban’s uShaka Marine World, along with a support team, have embarked on a trip called “Waddling for a Week” to raise awareness of the plight of the highly endangered African penguin.
The 122km trek from Gansbaai to Simon’s Town, which started yesterday, is the latest effort to save the continent’s only indigenous penguin species from extinction.
McLellan said the idea came after they had been challenged by Animal Keepers’ Association of Africa chairperson Robynn Ingle-Moller to create an event that would raise awareness about one of South Africa’s endangered species.
So, the pair and their colleagues created Penguin Promises, where people commit to Earth-friendly behaviours that will help to revive penguin populations. “Waddling for a Week” was designed to “narrow down the focus and create a connection, and intimacy, with the animals”.
Using the attention garnered by the waddle, Penguin Promises aims to teach people about bigger issues facing the animal populations, including overfishing and pollution.
The campaign is not asking people for money – it simply wants volunteers to adopt at least one pro-penguin behaviour – ranging from working with conservation organisations to buying more local products and less plastic.
Penguin lovers are invited to join the walk. Log on to http://www.mobii.com/penguinpromises/, Twitter (@PenguinPromises) and Facebook (www.facebook.com/penguinpromises). 

Penguin exhibit opens at Minnesota Zoo on July 9

Here come the penguins

Apple Valley,Thisweekend
Thursday 19 May 2011
“3M Penguins of the African Coast,” the new penguin exhibit at the Minnesota Zoo in Apple Valley, is set to open July 9. File photo

Penguin exhibit, other new features set to open this summer at Minnesota Zoo
by Andrew Miller

After a year of construction, the Minnesota Zoo is set to unveil a host of new features this summer that include a penguin exhibit, an education center, and a new venue for its popular bird show.
“3M Penguins of the African Coast,” set to open July 9 near the zoo’s newly upgraded south entrance, will offer visitors above- and below-water views of black-footed penguins in a replica of their habitat on Boulder’s Beach in South Africa.
Microphones at the exhibit will allow guests to hear the penguins’ loud braying calls, which are the origin of their nickname, “jackass penguins.”
The penguin exhibit is among the new features planned through the Heart of the Zoo project, which zoo director Lee Ehmke said is part of a push to make the Apple Valley zoo one of the top 10 zoos in the country.
Construction began last summer on Heart of the Zoo-Phase One, which is slated for completion this July.
A new education center, the Cargill Environmental Education Center, will provide space for school groups and zoo camps, and a new indoor theater called the Target Learning Center, built on the site of the zoo’s old whale tank, will play host to the KAYTEE World of Birds free-flight show in the winter months.
Zoo guests, however, needn’t wait for winter to check out the Target Learning Center. This summer the indoor theater will be the site of “Odessa’s Magical Menagerie,” a 25-minute puppet show that will be performed three times daily on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from May 28 to Sept. 5. The family-friendly show about biodiversity is free with paid zoo admission.
More about events and exhibits at the Minnesota Zoo is at mnzoo.org.


Penguins on treadmills... for science!

May 24, 2011 2:36 PM
(CBS) - Want to watch a penguin waddle his way through a treadmill? What if I told you it was for science? (I had you at penguin, didn't I.)

Well ladies and gentlemen, look no further. According to the YouTube video's info box, scientists wrangled up a bunch of king penguins so they could strut their stuff on a small treadmill. The mission was to determine how much energy they needed to expend "in order to maintain different heart rates."

I believe operation happy feet was a complete online success.


Campers risky for penguin colonies

Posted 25/05/2011
Penguins on the North Otago coastline must be protected from freedom campers, the Waitaki District Council has been told.
The council yesterday heard submissions to its draft Environmental Nuisance and Freedom Camping Control bylaw.
Department of Conservation solicitor Pene Williams told councillors there were five areas south of Oamaru where penguins, mostly yellow-eyed, had breeding colonies; Bushy Beach, Shag Point, Katiki Beach, Moeraki Peninsula, and Tavora Beach.
"Research has indicated that penguin nesting success is significantly decreased if birds are disturbed by people.
"There is also a concern that people will have dogs with them who could also disturb these vulnerable birds."
DOC also had regular issues with rubbish at the Moeraki Boulders site, she said. It would prefer a ban on freedom camping in parts of the area.
There were other places for campers to go, she said.
"There is a private campground at Moeraki and the department also has campsites nearby at Trotters Gorge and Glencoe near Herbert."
However, in principle the bylaw was "great". She encouraged the council to adopt it instead of waiting until the Government's Freedom Camping Bill to pass through parliament.
"This is not just our problem, this is not just your problem, this is everybody's problem and we need to work together to resolve it."
The council decided to "pause" its adoption of the bylaw until the end of August when the bill was hoped to have been passed.
Policy manager Fraser Liggett said the Department of Internal Affairs was still "teasing through" the logistics of applying the law.
Mayor Alex Familton said the council had little choice but to delay adopting the bylaw.
"The possibility of dealing with all this information and establishing this bylaw by the end of the month is not going to be an option."
The Government hopes to have freedom camping legislation in place by the Rugby World Cup in October.
The law will let councils and DOC determine where camping is allowed, where it is restricted to vehicles with self-containment, and where it is banned. Signage will be put in place.
Anyone in breach of the law will be slapped with a $200 instant fine.
Campervan hire companies will be made to record and disclose details so fines can be enforced.


Image of the Day ;-)

funny pictures - Come on, guys!  I don't care if we are penquins.  The water's frickin' cold!  Can't we just order in?

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Weird True & Freaky: Penguin Loses Tuxedo

A Trip to the Falkland Islands

Falkland Islands Abound in Slumbering Seals, Penguins, Foxholes

Gentoo Penguins
Gentoo penguins are part of a colony near Leopard Beach on Carcass Island, in the Falkland Islands archipelago. Photographer: Michael Luongo/Bloomberg
Lorraine McGill
Lorraine McGill, co-owner of Carcass Island, in the Falkland Islands archipelago. Mrs. McGill, and her husband Rob, are the only year-round residents on the 4,680 acre island. Photographer: Michael Luongo/Bloomberg
Falkland Islands Rainbow
A rainbow over the grave of Royal Air Force pilot Lieutenant Nick Taylor, who died in the 1982 Falkland Islands conflict between Argentina and Great Britain, near the settlement of Goose Green on East Falkland Island. The intermittent mix of rain and sun on the Falkland Islands means rainbows occur frequently. Photographer: Michael Luongo/Bloomberg
Rockhopper Penguins
Rockhopper penguins gather near the monument to the HMS Sheffield on Sea Lion Island in the Falkland Islands archipelago. The HMS Sheffield was sunk during the 1982 Falkland Islands conflict between Argentina and Great Britain. Photographer: Michael Luongo/Bloomberg
Elephant Seals
Elephant seals lounge on Carcass Island, in the Falkland Islands archipelago. With only two year-round human residents, Carcass Island is home to a variety of native wildlife. Photographer: Michael Luongo/Bloomberg
Gentoo Penguin Colony
A gentoo penguin colony near Leopard Beach on Carcass Island, in the Falkland Islands archipelago. Carcass Island is home to Magellanic and gentoo penguins. Photographer: Michael Luongo/Bloomberg
Argentine Cemetery
Crosses mark graves in the Argentine Cemetery near the Goose Green settlement on East Falkland Island, in the Falkland Islands archipelago. Around 650 Argentines died in the 1982 Falkland Islands conflict between Argentina and Great Britain. Photographer: Michael Luongo/Bloomberg 

Lorraine McGill scanned the South Atlantic Ocean from her window, the morning sun shining in her brown eyes.
“Sometimes they come right up to the garden, and you find the little fellows burrowing under the plants,” she said about the playful penguins near her house in the Falkland Islands.
The view wasn’t always so tranquil. She recalled an incident three decades ago when an Argentine soldier aimed a gun at her and “gave me such a fright.”
Such contradictions aren’t unusual in the Falklands, a British territory off the east coast of Argentina.
Abounding in wildlife, this cold, remote and sparsely populated (about 2,500 residents) archipelago about the size of Connecticut was visited by Charles Darwin during his Beagle voyage. Amidst the flora and fauna, though, are decaying signs of the 1982 war between Argentina and the U.K. for control of the islands.
Lorraine and I were on Carcass Island in the archipelago’s northwest section. She and her husband, Rob McGill, both Falkland natives, are the owners and only year-round residents of the 4,680-acre island. They’ve opened their sheep farm for visitors, an indication that tourism has supplanted agriculture as their main source of income.
Rob says the gentoo penguin colony in Leopard Beach is his favorite part of the island, and I can see why.

Slumbering Seals

The area is protected by 15- to 20-foot-high dunes covered in tussac grass. It was molting season when I visited and the colony was blanketed in snowy feathers covered by a paste of penguin droppings.
Penguins belly-flopped down the dunes and I followed their paths to a sandy cliff overlooking the beach. Caracaras, with wing spans of almost three feet, screamed and hovered inches from my head. The tussac was so high that it hid a group of slumbering elephant seals. As I stood there, reluctant to disturb their dreams of yummy squid, tiny tussac birds used their elongated snouts as landing pads.
From there I head to Sea Lion Island in the southeast corner of the Falklands. It’s home to Sea Lion Lodge, often called the southernmost hotel under British domain. Beyond, there is only open ocean to Antarctica.
Near the water’s edge, I hear loud snorting coming from dozens of sea lions that blend in with the rocks they’re resting on. They are as curious about me as I am of them, tilting their heads for a better look, sniffing the air for my scent and using their flippers to scratch above their eyes.

Crosses, Candles

The mountain summit is covered with crosses, plaques, candles and offerings. The moment we reach it, the skies break into a torrent of sleet. We hide under the rocky outcroppings but my legs stick out and get soaked.
As we headed back to the capital of Stanley, Derek paused and said, “I prefer wildlife tours because I think that is what the islands should be about.”
Americans heading to the Falkland Islands can connect through Santiago, Chile, via LAN airline. But there’s only one flight per week, and it’s on Saturday. The return flight to Santiago has the same once-a-week schedule.
For ideas on where to stay and what to see, visit the Falkland Islands Tourism Board website, which also has information on government-run flights between the islands.
It can be complicated to coordinate flights, hotels sightseeing on your own. Ladatco, a tour company based in Coconut Grove, Florida, specializes in the Falklands.


Imperiled penguins find refuge in New Zealand sanctuary

CHRISTCHURCH, New Zealand: “You’re a bit grumpy aren’t you mate,” says conservationist Shirleen Helps as she expertly handles a squawking penguin doing its best to peck her unprotected fingers. The tiny bird, angry at the indignity of being transported in a cat box, was found starving and malnourished at a penguin colony on Helps’ property, where the population has fallen dramatically this year as changing weather patterns have reduced fish stocks.
Helps found a place for her reluctant passenger, nicknamed Morgan, at a penguin refuge in Christchurch but says hundreds more Little Blue Penguins have died at the colony on the east coast of New Zealand’s South Island.
The Little Blue, also known as the Fairy Penguin, is the smallest of the world’s penguin species, measuring about 25 centimeters tall and weighing just 1 kilogram.
“This year’s been a terrible year, we’ve had big starvation issues at sea,” said Helps. “A lot of chicks have starved to death before we could actually help them, then the adults started getting into trouble and started ending up too skinny to get the through the moult and this one was one of those … we’ve probably lost 80-90 percent of the chicks this year.”
New Zealand’s Department of Conservation says the culprit is La Nina, a weather pattern characterized by unusually cool ocean temperatures in the central and eastern tropical Pacific.
U.N. scientists have linked La Nina to recent episodes of extreme weather around the globe, including flooding in Australia and drought in East Africa and the western seaboard of South America.
DOC says it has also had an impact on New Zealand’s penguins, predicting thousands of birds could die this year as the most severe La Nina in 25 years reduces the schools of baitfish upon which they depend.
“Calm seas stop the mixing of water columns making it harder for seabirds to find food,” DOC vet Kate Mcinnes said. “Any bird relying on fish will struggle.”
Autopsies completed this month on the bodies of 18 penguins found washed up on New Zealand shores discovered that none had food in their stomachs and they died from starvation and exposure.
While New Zealand’s 50,000-plus Little Blue Penguin population is expected to recover from the La Nina-induced fish shortage in the long term, experts say they also face threats from feral animals and habitat destruction by humans.
The refuge where Morgan found a home, located in Christchurch’s International Antarctic Center, cares for 24 injured penguins that stand no chance of surviving in the wild.
“Most of them have broken or paralyzed flippers, some have eating disabilities so I have to assist them, others have broken beaks,” penguin keeper Mallorie Hackett said.
Inhabitants include Elvis, who is completely blind and locates his food by following the rustle of the fish bucket on his enclosure’s gravel, and Bagpipes, a one-legged penguin who sports a modified neoprene beer cooler to keep his stump dry.


Highlanders Help Kick Off Yellow-eyed Penguin Trust Planting Season


Thanks to the Speight's Brewery Environment Fund, the Yellow-eyed Penguin Trust Nursery kicked off their planting season this year on International Day of Biological Diversity, Sunday 22 May, 2011 at Tavora Reserve, East Otago.

Over 20 Trust volunteers, staff and supporters pitched in alongside Highlander players Siale Piutau, Shaun Treeby and Highlander marketing manager Doug McSweeney to plant 1000 native trees, shrubs, flaxes and pikao. The aim of the day was to extend the current planting towards the southern beach to enhance the biodiversity where the rare yellow-eyed penguins breed. The restoration of these riparian strips provide ecological and environmental benefits for integrated land-use practices and is the way forward for conservation.

The planting took place as part of the Yellow-eyed Penguin Trust programme of conservation activity using trees from its own nursery, which produces approximately 15,000 trees each year, the bulk of which will be planted in its own reserves this winter.

Sue Murray, General Manager of the Yellow-eyed Penguin Trust said the inaugural planting day was a huge success with much valued support from the 2010 Speight's Brewery grant of 5k, the Highlanders, Trust staff, volunteers and supporters.

"The Speight's fund was a catalyst for the Highlanders to support the Trust on our first planting day of the season and they have indicated they hope to continue to support the Trust on future planting days. Given the Trust's patron Anton Oliver is an Otago rugby icon, we're sure he would be proud of them."

Nursery manager, Anita Pillai said by putting native plants into this area it creates a much richer community, species wise.

"International Day of Biological Diversity recognises this area as an endangered eco-system. The planting today of 600 trees, shrubs alongside 400 flaxes and pikao creates something that doesn't exist locally and gives the community a chance to experience what the coastline used to be like. It is better for all native species and animals in this reserve and helps yellow-eyed penguins to thrive," she said.

The Trust will maintain the new plantings for at least three years, spraying competing exotic grasses and ensuring the protective wire cages are secure, to stop rabbits and hares from damaging the trees.


London Zoo to open England’s biggest penguin pool this week

London Zoo will be opening England’s biggest penguin pool on Friday (May 27).
The world famous zoo’s new Penguin Beach will house a 1,200 square metre pool – four times the size of the old one and three times deeper.
It will include a new underwater viewing area where visitors can see the birds diving for their food at twice-daily feeds.
Zoological director David Field said: “ZSL London Zoo’s penguin feeds are a wonderful tradition that has been delighting visitors since our first penguin arrived in 1865.
“Penguin Beach takes the zoo’s penguin tradition into a new era, allowing us to breed large colonies of threatened penguins in an amazing new habitat. Hopefully by witnessing how breathtaking these birds are, we can encourage ZSL London Zoo’s visitors to help protect them.”
The zoo, in Regent’s Park, will initially be home to 80 of the flightless birds, but the colony is set to grow to 200 in the future.
Four species of penguins will be bred – known as Humboldt, macaroni, black-footed and rockhopper – and there will be a special penguin nursery, with a chick incubation unit and a pool where youngsters will learn to swim.
Next door to this will be an exact replica of the field station where the zoo’s resident penguinologist works on climate change research in Antarctica.


Meanwhile, From the Enemy's Camp: Ranchers cheered by lifting of wolf protections

wiinterrr's note: I am posting this in order to show the type of opposition we pro-wolf folks are up against. If you can do anything to help, please do so now or the wolves may succumb to the irrational thinking of these ignorant ranchers.  Thanks.

These undated images are provided by Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks.

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Ranchers in Western states said they're hopeful the removal of gray wolves from the federal endangered species list will make it easier to hunt the predators and stem losses of cattle and sheep.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service earlier this month formally lifted federal protections for more than 1,300 wolves in Montana, Idaho, Oregon, Washington and Utah. That will allow hunting of the carnivores that ranchers say have taken a steady toll on their livestock over the past two decades.
Tex Marchessault, a cattle rancher near Dillon, Mont., said he's lost several young cattle over the years, and other livestock have been injured in attacks. Government trappers killed a six-wolf pack on his land a few years ago, but another pack soon took its place, he said.
"Let the public know what kind of killers we're faced with," Marchessault said. "They're killers and that's the way it is."
Many ranchers distrust a government they say created the problem by reintroducing wolves to the region decades after they were wiped out.
"We were just running along fine for the last 25 to 30 years of my life, and now you put a huge predator into the mix. It certainly makes it a challenge," said John Helle, part of a four-family sheep and cattle operation near Dillon.
While Minnesota has close to 3,000 wolves, the most in the lower 48 states, most of the losses blamed on them have been in the West, especially Montana and Idaho.
Marchessault's neighbor, Tom Tash, said wolves killed two calves and probably killed another in late March and early April. "And another cow split her pelvis fighting them off and had to be destroyed," he added.
Ron Aasheim, spokesman for the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks, said his state's wolf population has grown to the point where it can sustain hunting.
But Collette Adkins Giese, a Minnesota-based staff attorney for the Center for Biological Diversity, said delisting wolves is premature without a nationwide recovery plan. Wolves in the western Great Lakes and Northern Rockies should remain protected so they can help repopulate portions of the Northeast and Northwest that could support packs again, she said.
Adkins Giese said wolves kill a relatively small number of livestock, and she argued those losses can be handled through compensation or nonlethal options. Federal statistics show guard animals, fencing and frequent checking are the most common nonlethal measures.
When the federal government issues final rules for Great Lakes wolves, the group will decide whether to sue, she said.
"We think there's still too much up in the air with the science," she said.
Jay Bodner, director of natural resources at the Montana Stockgrowers Association, said ranchers know they won't be able to get rid of all wolves but are relieved they can take quicker action when problems arise.
The push to remove wolves from the endangered list came to a head last month when Montana's senators succeeded in doing an end-run around the Endangered Species Act and the courts, which had blocked previous attempts. They attached language to a federal budget bill to force the "delisting" of wolves in the five western states. That move cleared the way for the Fish and Wildlife Service to transfer responsibility for managing wolves to those states.
Montana and Idaho are preparing to hold public wolf hunts this fall.
The Fish and Wildlife Service also plans to take gray wolves off the endangered list in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan. A 60-day public comment on that proposal runs through July 5. Some 4,200 wolves now roam the three states.
Protections remain in place for Wyoming's wolves because the federal agency hasn't accepted that state's management plan. The Interior Department is still negotiating with Wyoming officials.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates wolves killed 8,100 adult cattle and calves across the country last year. That loss was valued at $3.6 million, making up less than 4 percent of all losses. Most cattle were lost to illness or weather.
Kim Baker, president of the Montana Cattlemen's Association, said her family lost six head in 2008 and 2009, for which they were reimbursed $2,100, although the cattle's value was closer to $42,250. She said authorities have killed seven wolves on their property.
Besides the dead livestock, the mere proximity of wolves puts cattle under so much stress they don't breed or put on weight properly, said Baker, who ranches near Hot Springs, Mont.
Wolf numbers are higher but livestock losses are lower in northern Minnesota and Wisconsin and Michigan's Upper Peninsula. Gary Nohrenberg, state director for the USDA's Wildlife Services division in Minnesota, said the situations in the Upper Midwest and the West aren't comparable because livestock range free over large territories in the West, while they're largely kept penned on smaller farms in his region.
USDA Wildlife Services verified 130 complaints about wolf depredation in Minnesota last year, and 192 wolves were killed in response. Most of the complaints involved attacks on cattle, domestic dogs, sheep and turkeys. The state paid about $88,400 in wolf claims in fiscal 2009 and $96,500 through the first seven months of the current fiscal year.
"This is time to get them off the list," said Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn. "That's how the Endangered Species Act was set up."


Image of the Day

Galapagos penguin by paul_ark
Galapagos penguin, a photo by paul_ark on Flickr.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Image of the Day

Molting penguin
... and you just thought your day was bad.

New Endangered African Penguin Exhibit Opens at Toronto Zoo

Sat, 5/21/2011
By Amanda Chambers

Toronto, Canada - The swim, they dive, they waddle, and mostly they are sure to entertain zoo visitors of all ages. After an 18-year absence, African penguins are back, introducing zoo visitors to 12 playful and entertaining new friends. The new Endangered African Penguin Exhibit features an innovative design that includes a new penguin house with indoor pool, state-of-the-art underwater viewing area, and a large window for public viewing of the penguins if they are off exhibit due to cold temperatures. Although the exhibit will initially hold 12 penguins, there is room for up to 50 of these sea birds to live comfortably. Penguins aren't the only birds calling this new exhibit home.
Great white and pink-backed pelicans, white-breasted cormorants and other water fowl will also be new additions to the Zoo this year. Visitors can catch a daily Keeper Talk and Feeding, take home a penguin souvenir from the retail kiosk and much more.

"The opening of this new exhibit supports the Zoo's vision in many ways, offering interaction, education, conservation and fun," says John Tracogna, Toronto Zoo CEO. "Being an endangered species, the Zoo is committed to the Species Survival Plan (SSP) for African penguins. We will offer keeper talks, events and programs to educate our visitors on this popular and interesting animal. We are certain this exhibit will be a real favourite for our visitors."

Fun facts about the African penguin:

• pairs mate for life
• while penguins cannot fly in the air, they do plenty of flying in the water
• life span is about 15 to 20 years
• may have up to 300 feathers per square inch on its body
• both males and females incubate the eggs
• population has dropped from millions to less than 60,000 since the 1800s

While natural predators such as seals, sharks and mongoose take their toll on the endangered African penguin population, humans are by far the greatest threat to these endangered birds. Loss of suitable breeding ground, competition from commercial fishing, egg collection and the other environmental factors such as oil spills have all contributed to a rapid decline in population. In order to help prevent further decline, the endangered African penguin will become the focus of a Species Survival Plan (SSP) at the Toronto Zoo.


Stark penguin paradise

Published: 21 May, 2011

The wildlife in Antarctica is both unique and fragile.

Tough weather conditions and sub-zero temperatures all year round can make Antarctica an uninviting place to live on. But in fact it is home to a range of hardy animals.

­Down at the bottom of the Earth there is a land of ice and volcanic rock, so different from the civilized world that it is hard to imagine that life could be found there. But in fact, a closer look reveals it is one of the most interesting ecosystems on the planet.

You know that due to a very unique position, Antarctica has been isolated from the other continents for a very long time. It means that the fauna we have here – from the tiniest creatures all the way up to seals and penguins, is unique. You can never find it anywhere else on the planet,” explained Vassiliy Pavarzhn, a marine biologist.

We only have marine mammals and marine birds that come on shore to breed. The only terrestrial life is limited to the vegetation and maybe some invertebrates some tiny invertebrates. And that’s about it,” said Ian Bullock, a biological researcher.

And if you want to experience some of this exotic wildlife, the Antarctica Peninsula is certainly a good place to start.

There are four different kinds of seals you could expect to see, six if you are lucky. The penguins too, there are three of  the brush-tailed penguins that you would expect to see in the peninsula, but if you are most dreadfully lucky you could see up to six different species,” said Dr. Steve Emslie, a penguin researcher.

It is clear that the wildlife in Antarctica is both unique and fragile. One of the main areas of study for scientists down here is the environment so they can get a better understanding of how they can protect that wildlife.

We are seeing the Adelie penguins, which are the most abundant species in the Antarctic and a true ice-loving species, they are declining in the Antarctic Peninsula. They may even disappear from the peninsula in the next 50 years because of the warming and the loss of sea ice, which is just part of their habitat,” Emslie said.

With scientists witnessing such dramatic changes in such a short period of time, the concern is what to do in the future to prevent such a rapid change in the environment.

There is a very big message here. There is nowhere on the planet that is changing faster than the Antarctic Peninsula. It is one of three sites that have the fastest growing increase in average weather, particularly winter temperatures. There is western Siberia, Alaska and the Antarctic Peninsula which is warming five times faster than anywhere else on the planet,” stated Bullock.

And this means the fate of the animals that call this place home is up in the air.

Read details of RT’s Antarctic adventures in Sean Thomas’s blog