Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Images of the Day


Endangered Species Act Protection Sought for Emperor Penguins

For Immediate Release, November 28, 2011
Contact: Miyoko Sakashita, (415) 632-5308

Endangered Species Act Protection Sought for Emperor Penguins
Melting Sea Ice Threatens Penguins; Reality Echoes Happy Feet Two Plot

SAN FRANCISCO— The Center for Biological Diversity filed a legal petition today seeking
Endangered Species Act protection for emperor penguins threatened by global warming.
Emperors are the most ice-dependent of all penguin species, threatened by the loss of their
sea-ice habitat as well as declining food availability wrought by the warming ocean off Antarctica.
Their populations are declining because of global warming; some colonies have entirely disappeared.
“The sea-ice habitat that emperor penguins need to survive is melting beneath their feet,” said Miyoko
Sakashita, oceans director at the Center. “It’s great to see movies like Happy Feet Two bringing the
plight of emperor penguins to people around the world. But in reality, there’s no happy Hollywood
ending for these penguins unless we take real action to address the global climate crisis.” 

Emperor penguins need sea ice for breeding and foraging. Today’s petition highlights the serious problems
of melting sea ice and other warming-driven changes in Antarctica and the Southern Ocean. Areas of
Antarctica are experiencing dramatic warming, leading to loss of sea ice as well as the collapse of ice sheets.
In 2006, the Center filed a petition to list 12 penguin species as threatened or endangered. The Interior
Department conducted status reviews for 10 of those species. After delays and ultimately a court order,
the agency protected seven species but denied protection for the remaining ones, including the emperor.
Today’s petition presents new scientific information demonstrating that emperor penguins are imperiled.
“Emperor penguins are icons of wild Antarctica,” said Sakashita. “And protecting them under the
Endangered Species Act is essential to their survival.”

Listing under the Endangered Species Act would provide broad protection to these penguins, including
a requirement that federal agencies ensure that any action carried out, authorized or funded by the U.S.
government will not “jeopardize the continued existence” of the penguin species. For example, if penguins
are listed, future approval of fishing permits for U.S.-flagged vessels operating on the high seas would
require analysis and minimization of impacts on the listed penguins. The Act also has an important role
to play in reducing greenhouse gas pollution by compelling federal agencies to look at the impact of the
emissions generated by their activities on listed species.

Emperor penguins are the world’s largest penguin species, capable of growing nearly four feet tall.
They range throughout coastal Antarctica and travel each spring to inland breeding sites. Near the
beginning of summer, adult penguins and their chicks return to the sea and spend the rest of the summer
feeding there.

For more information on penguins and a link to the federal petition,
please see: http://www.biologicaldiversity.org/species/birds/penguins/index.html
For a link to photos of emperor penguins,
please see: http://www.biologicaldiversity.org/species/birds/penguins/press_photos.html

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization
with more than 320,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of
endangered species and wild places.

African Penguin Colony at the Edge of Extinction

NGS stock photo of African penguins by Chris Johns

A colony of African penguins (Spheniscus demersus) living and breeding on a small island off the southern tip of Africa is fighting an increasingly desperate battle for survival. Their numbers are declining drastically despite the care of conservation organizations which have banded together to give them help, even by providing them with nesting homes to shelter them from the sun and to hide their eggs and chicks from sea gulls.

Their plight is typical of the increasingly precarious situation of the species as a whole which last year shifted from Vulnerable to Endangered on the IUCN (World Conservation Union) Red List of Threatened Species.
Responding to the change of status, BirdLife International at the time noted that when the first full census of the species was conducted in 1956, 150,000 pairs were counted. These, it said, were what remained after “more than a century of sustained persecution, principally from egg collecting and guano scraping”.

In 2009, BirdLife said, only 26,000 pairs were counted, representing a loss of more than 80 percent, coming to around 90 birds dying every week since 1956.

The situation is worse on Dyer Island, a low-level rocky outcrop of about 50 acres, or 20 hectares, in a bay near Cape Agulhas. In 1979 it was home to 23,000 pairs of penguins, which amounted to more than half the breeding population along the southwestern coast of South Africa.  This year only 900 pairs have been counted. Circling the island by boat, it is countless gulls, but hardly a penguin, you see these days.

Dyer Island with Geyser Rock on the far side, separated by what is known as Shark Alley. Picture courtesy Dyer Island Conservation Trust.

In this sad fate of the African penguin, too, it is the hand of humankind that is most heavily evident.
Brenda Walters, operations manager of the Dyer Island Conservation Trust, says guano scraping in the 19th and 20th centuries, for use as agricultural fertilizer, forced penguins to nest on the surface instead of the soft guano burrows they would normally make.  The heat stress caused them to abandon their nests, which allowed especially the kelp gulls to get at their eggs and chicks.

Brenda Walters, Dyer Island Conservation Trust operations manager, with one of the nesting boxes made by the trust. Picture by Leon Marshall.

Government archives show that in the early 1900s nearly 800,000 penguin eggs were removed in just one year, so sought-after they were as a delicacy.

Two major oil spills from ships ten years ago killed many birds. And, as if the human onslaught is not enough, the birds are also vulnerable to the Cape fur seals that abound in the area, having made their home on an outcrop called Geyser Rock that is separated from Dyer Island by a narrow strip of sea named Shark Alley. The seals are kept in check by the great white sharks that regularly cruise through to grab a few, hence the sea strip’s name.

The most basic requirement for the penguin population’s health is that they have enough food. But it is this aspect that is causing most concern. Fish stocks have dropped, but whether by over-fishing or changes in sea conditions possibly brought on by factors like climate change is not clear.
BirdLife International’s assessment last year mentioned commercial fisheries and shifts in prey populations as the likely causes of depleted fish stocks.

Penguins Struggling to Find Food

Rob Crawford, chief scientist for Marine & Coastal Management, the government department responsible for monitoring and protecting seabirds, was quoted as saying: “While it’s difficult to prove exactly what has caused the decreases, all the indications are that the penguins are struggling to find enough sardines and anchovies.”

But limiting fishing in the area is a tricky matter. The nearby coastal village of Gansbaai and adjacent communities have fishing as their main industry. Research into the situation and how to deal with it has been going on for a while.

Walters says tracking data is being obtained to see how far the penguins go for food and the energy they expend in the process. Distances of up to 50 kilometers (31 miles) from Dyer Island have been recorded. The information will help with assessing the need for a marine protected area around the colony.

The trust is playing the key role in trying to rescue the penguin colony. It makes them artificial nests from fiberglass that protect them from the sun and help them defend their eggs and chicks against the gulls. The project has won it a number of environmental awards.

It promotes awareness locally and internationally of the birds’ plight and raises funds mainly through donations made by clients of Dyer Island Cruises, which does cage-dive viewing of sharks and takes tourists on boat trips around Dyer Island. When the penguins go into moult in November,  any late chicks are often abandoned. These are removed and taken to rehabilitation facilities. “Every chick counts,” Walters says.

Dyer Island Conservation Trust was set up in 2006 by a colorful local character named Wilfred Chivell who started his tourist-cruise and cage-diving business after losing everything – “company, house, wife” – when his concrete-making business went bankrupt as a result of a serious construction slump.
He designed the fiberglass nests, of which more than 800 have already been installed round the island. Some have also been taken to other breeding colonies.

The nesting boxes made for the penguins to shelter them from the sun and marauding sea gulls. Picture courtesy Dyer Island Conservation Trust.

The Trust is the local center for injured and oiled penguins and other seabirds. It is also involved with great white shark research and studies on whales and dolphins, as well as community projects.

Donations can be made by “purchasing” penguin nests on www.dict.org.za. Donors’ names are recorded on the website and they get a certificate of donation.


National Geographic Video: Conservationists launch a tracking system to help save the endangered African Penguin:


Monday, November 28, 2011

Images of the Day (yesterday & today)

A penguin, yesterday by Simon Proffitt
A penguin, yesterday, a photo by Simon Proffitt on Flickr.

Antarctica 2011 - Live Show

Sniffer Dogs Trained To Conserve Penguins At Sydney's North Head (VIDEO)

The Huffington Post   Bonnie Christian First Posted: 11/26/11  
In an ironic twist for the little penguins of Sydney's North Head, a usual predator has come to their rescue.
According to the Office of Environment and Heritage in New South Wales, the penguin population has dramatically decreased to just 60 pairs after once numbering in the hundreds, due to dog and fox attacks, habitat loss and nesting site disturbances.
To protect what is left of the the endangered colony, Australian Wildlife Services have started using specially trained sniffer dogs to track and monitor the birds. 

An English Springer Spaniel named Eco has been called to the job. Not only does Eco sniff out the tiny penguins, which stand 30 cm tall and weigh about 2.2 pounds when fully grown, the dog is on the tail of the cats, foxes and other dogs who are not after the penguins' best interests.
"I've trained her to passively respond when she detects a penguin burrow," her trainer Steve Austin told Australian Geographic. "In contrast, when detecting foxes, Eco's response is very active whereby she vigorously digs the area when she detects a fox den."

Wiinterrr's Day reports that park ranger Melanie Tyas says the birds were difficult to find and conserve because they stay hidden during the day, only coming out at night. Rangers can tag birds and get a better idea of what the penguns are doing with Eco's help -- According to Australian Geographic, the dog takes one hour to cover an area that would take 10 people four hours to monitor.
The penguins are not the only ones being helped by the nose of their predators. Working Dogs For Conservation has sent one of their trained sniffer dogs to China to help out on a research project that analyzes Asiatic Black Bear (also known as Moon bear) feces in an effort to conserve the endangered population. 

Even cheetahs have benefited from the help of clever pooches. The elusive species was becoming increasingly rare across Africa, according to Wildlife Extra in July 2010, and is currently classified as vulnerable on the IUCN Red List. A Welsh company specializing in training sniffer dogs, Wagtail UK, was reported to be helping to track the big cats in their native South Africa.
Using a sniffer dog to track Sydney's little penguins is a pilot program, according to Wiinterrr's Day, which started at the beginning of November.

What's New at the Toronto Zoo-Penguins, natch!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Let's Leave Penguins out of It

Woman Allegedly Holds Up Gas Station With Toy Penguin

Written by  Dwight DEvelyn, YCSO Media Relations Coordinator
Attempted Robbery Suspect Arrested after Fleeing Dewey-Humboldt Chevron

On November 23, 2011, at approximately 6:15 PM, Yavapai County Sheriff’s Office deputies responded to a reported robbery at the Chevron Station in the 2700 block of Highway 69, Dewey-Humboldt. The Chevron employee stated that a female entered the mini-mart with her right hand concealed under her sweater, claiming she had a bomb, and demanding cash from the register. The clerk explained the store was closing and the register was empty. The suspect threatened to blow up the clerk if he did not comply. She then walked behind the counter, grabbed a bag, and demanded the clerk place cash in the bag. The clerk refused to cooperate and the suspect eventually fled the store.

The clerk was able to obtain a license plate number from the suspect’s dark colored Chrysler Pacifica vehicle as it fled north on Highway 69 toward Prescott Valley. A check of the vehicle registration showed the owner, 26-year-old Andri Jeffers, resided in the Castle Canyon Mesa area of Prescott Valley. Deputies were also able to obtain a suspect description from the store’s video security system.

Just after 7:15 PM, deputies located Jeffers at her home in the 2900 block of North Kings Highway West, Castle Canyon Mesa. Jeffers was confirmed as the suspect initially by the surveillance photo and also identified by the clerk. Jeffers admitted to her participation in the robbery. Deputies learned the item she held under her shirt was a toy penguin. She was arrested and booked at the Camp Verde Detention Center for one count of Attempted Robbery.

Jeffers has since been released on bond.

Citizens can contact the Yavapai County Sheriff’s Office with information or questions at 928-771-3260 or the YCSO website: www.ycsoaz.gov


Happy Feet Two Review

Enough already with the bad reviews. I am here to laud praise where praise is due and to denounce all others.

Happy Feet Two finds our beloved Mumble (Elijah Wood), still stuck in his first molt, as the father to tiny chick, Erik (Ava Acres). Gloria, voiced by P!nk, still sings and dances alongside her uber talented mate.  Just as Mumble found it impossible to sing when he was a chick, so little Erik cannot dance. After totally embarrassing himself, Erik with his two friends, Bo (Meibh Campbell) and Atticus (Ben Flores, Jr) follow a love starved Ramon back to Adelieland.

Once there, everyone-including the audience-is introduced to Sven, the flying "penguin," who in reality is actually a puffin. Sven speaks in a traditional sing-song, Swedish dialect and after his hyped introduction by Lovelace (Robin Williams returns to voice this role and that of Ramon), Sven indulges in his role of penguin guru, passing out gems of wisdom that the very gullible young emperors find impossible to ignore.

When Mumble appears on the scene to take the trio back home, he listens to Sven, but scrutinizes the puffin, as if he cannot figure out quite what is wrong. Sven's positivity sermon instills into Erik that "if you want it, you must will it. If you will it, it will be yours." Of course, that's just a lot of bull, but Mumble remains his patient self and allows his chick to discover the truth in his own time. That time period comes very soon, as global warming has dislodged a giant chunk of ice, which plugs up emperorland, allowing no escape or access to food.

However, Sven may garner the attention of the adelies and emperor chicks, but he is merely one of the several subplots of the movie. The real scene stealers are the two krill who venture off from the swarm searching for adventure. Matt Damon and Brad Pitt are hilarious as the two voices continually come up with the best lines ("I'm one in a krillion"). And the colors these two generate in the film are simply stunning.

Is there singing? Is there dancing, still? Yes, yes, of course. You will see and be amazed, especially when you finally understand little Erik's special gift. But in order to fully appreciate this film, watch it in 3D. This was my first experience with the new type of 3D lenses and wow! I mean, wow! Snow and ice are flung into the viewers' faces and leopard seals appear as if they will leap from the screen into your lap. I laughingly poked at air bubbles at the end of the film and when the first one burst as if I had poked it, I was hooked. The soundtrack and score do not disappoint either, as there are a couple of recycled Queen numbers.

So lay off the bitching about not enough female roles or that Puccini would be turning over in his grave. Geez. Can't a penguin just make you smile and that be enough? It is entertainment, after all.

This Week's Pencognito!


Visit Jen and all the Pengies HERE!

Image of the Day

Antarctica 2011 - Chinstrap by BB Ramone
Antarctica 2011 - Chinstrap, a photo by BB Ramone on Flickr.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Climate change weaving ‘tapestry of change’ in South Africa, researchers say

By Associated Press, Updated: Wednesday, November 23, 2011

JOHANNESBURG — Imagine the savannas of South Africa’s flagship Kruger Park so choked with brush, viewing what game is left is nearly impossible. The Cape of Good Hope without penguins. The Karoo desert’s seasonal symphony of wildflowers silenced.

Climate change could mean unthinkable loss for South Africa, which hosts talks on global warming that will bring government negotiators, scientists and lobbyists from around the world to the coastal city of Durban next week.

Guy Midgley, the top climate change researcher at the South African National Biodiversity Institute, said evidence gleaned from decades of recording weather data, observing flora and fauna and conducting experiments makes it possible for scientists to “weave a tapestry of change.”

Change is, of course, part of the natural world. But the implications of so much change happening at once pose enormous questions, said Midgley, who has contributed to the authoritative reports of the United Nations’ Nobel Prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

In the Karoo, for example, where plants found nowhere else in the world have adapted to long, dry summers and winter rainfall, the weather pattern is changing.

Scientists have noted large die-offs linked to the stress of drought among one iconic Karoo denizen, the flowering quiver tree, a giant aloe that often is the only large plant visible across large stretches of desert. Quiver trees attract tourists, and insects, birds and mammals eat their flowers.

“Any change in climate is going to affect the flowers,” said Wendy Foden, a southern African plant specialist with the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

Barend Erasmus, an ecologist at Johannesburg’s University of the Witwatersrand, worked on some of the first efforts to model how Africa might be affected by climate change. He led a 2001 study that raised the possibility that up to two-thirds of the species studied might disappear from Kruger National Park.

Research done since has made Erasmus less fearful for Kruger’s animal population. But he predicts profound effects should a changing climate encourage the growth of thick shrubs, squeezing out zebra, antelope and cheetah.

Already, he said, zebra and wildebeest numbers are declining in Kruger as their grazing areas disappear. The question is how much of the cause is due to high concentrations of carbon dioxide, and how much depends on other factors, including man’s encroachment.

Offshore, penguin expert Rob Crawford has looked at changes in the breeding grounds of African penguins and other seabirds, noting South Africa’s northernmost penguin colony went extinct in 2006. Crawford and his colleagues wrote in a 2008 paper that the movements “suggest the influence of environmental change, perhaps forced by climate.”

The African penguin, also known as the jackass penguin because of its braying call, is found only in southern Africa. A colony near Cape Town has long been a tourist draw.

One penguin parent stays behind to nest and care for offspring, while the other seeks food for the family. If the hunting partner is away too long, the nesting parent has to abandon the chick — or starve. Species like sardines, on which the penguins depend, have been displaced.
“If they don’t have sardines, they can’t feed their chicks,” Erasmus said. “And eventually the colonies just disappear.”

The numbers of African penguins have plummeted from up to 4 million in the early 1900s to 60,000 in 2010, according to the Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds. Researchers blame humans, who collected penguin eggs for food until the 1960s. More recently, a new threat came with oil spills and commercial fishing’s competition for anchovies and sardines.
Erasmus said more research needs to be done, including studies on how plants and animals react to extreme conditions.

A colleague at his university, Duncan Mitchell, has taken up the challenge by tracking and studying antelope living in one of the hottest and driest corners of South Africa.

“We’re hoping to find that they have a capacity to deal with water shortage that they’re not having to use at the moment,” Mitchell said.

“Climate change is going to happen,” Mitchell said, adding it’s already too late to influence temperatures and water levels over the next four decades. “What needs to be researched is coping with unmitigated climate change.”

Coping might involve moving vulnerable animals to cooler habitats — or ensuring they’re not so hemmed in by human settlements that they cannot migrate on their own. Park rangers may have to work harder to remove trees to protect savannas. The South African government has called for expanding gene banks to conserve vulnerable species.

Sarshen Marais, a policy expert for Conservation International, says the work her organization is doing to eradicate foreign plants and help farmers better manage their land and water has gained importance.

Climate change experts fear water could become even scarcer in the future, but farmers can take steps that will help cash crops as well as wildlife. Conservation International has encouraged local communities to cut down thirsty foreign plants and sell the debris for fuel, allowing impoverished South Africans to earn while they save native species that are losing in the competition for water.

Researcher Erasmus acknowledges that in a developing country like South Africa, it can be hard to prioritize the plight of plants and animals. But he said an economic argument can be made, including the impact on people living in savannas who supplement their diets with small birds, other animals and wild greens, and who make money selling native fruits.

Tourism also is a consideration.

“Kruger is a cash cow for the whole of SANParks,” he said, referring to the national parks department.
Foden, the plant specialist, said that when she thinks of her native South Africa, she thinks of wide spaces filled with a stunning diversity of plants and animals.

“If we were to lose that,” she said, “we would lose so much of our identity.”


Updates--Little Penguin Rescues(images, story & vids)

image source

The flightless birds that survived spent six weeks being looked after and cleaned by experts.

They have now been set free on Mt Maunganui beach.

Waddle ... Blue Penguins back on the beach after oil spill hits New Zealand coast in October
Waddle ... Blue Penguins back on the beach after oil spill hits New Zealand coast in October
The blue penguins, the smallest species of penguin in the world, were found a few days after the maritime catastrophe which hit the once pristine beaches of Mount Manganui and Papamoa.

Pppperky ... the Blue Penguins are released by rescuers after being cleaned up following New Zealand oil disaster
Pppperky ... the Blue Penguins are released by rescuers after being cleaned up following New Zealand oil disaster
Oil leaked from the Liberian-flagged Rena, stranded 12 nautical miles off the coast, created a three-mile (5km) slick.


Recovered penguins released to the sea

Close to 50 little survivors of the Rena oil spill have hit the water once again, after being released back into the wild today.
This morning 49 little blue penguins were released at Mt Maunganui, after being in the care of the National Oiled Wildlife centre since the cargo vessel Rena ran aground on Astrolabe Reef on October 5.
The stricken vessel spilled tonnes of heavy oil and containers into the ocean, sparking clean up efforts across the Bay of Plenty coastline and raising fears for wildlife in the area.
About 350 people turned up to watch the penguins' return to the wild today, marking a milestone in the clean up efforts.
Environment Minister Nick Smith said the penguin release was a significant milestone in the Bay of Plenty's recovery from the Rena oil spill and environmental disaster.
"It is a heart-warming experience after the devastating scene of oiled and dead birds to see these healthy penguins returning to their natural habitat. The wildlife response to this disaster has been first class.''
Helen McConnell of the National Oiled Wildlife Response Team advised that close to 300 penguins are still under care at the wildlife response centre, along with two pied shags and 60 NZ dotterels.
"The remaining birds will be released once they have returned to full health and their habitat is clean ... We are ready to respond if anything new occurs.''
The wildlife team will continue to monitor the birds following their release as they re-orient themselves in their original habitats.
Salvors on board the Rena are continuing to steadily remove containers from the vessel, and have cleared two container bays.
A Maritime New Zealand spokesman said as of early this afternoon, 13 more containers had been taken off the vessel which brought the total up to 84.
He said salvors would now start on the refrigerated containers, and the bay behind the bridge superstructure.
The Sea Tow 60 continues to operate at the stern of the Rena, where small amounts of fuel oil are being stripped from the starboard tank.
A light sheen of oil continues to sit downwind from Rena, but is not the result of any new oil source, he said.
Work continues with the beach clean-up, including a surf washing process that has been successful in cleaning oil from the sand. 


Image of the Day

Rockhoppers by Simon Proffitt
Rockhoppers, a photo by Simon Proffitt on Flickr.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Instant Live 8: Taking a Plunge with the Penguins

November 21, 2011

DALLAS - What better way to wake up than jump in an ice cold pool? This morning WFAA's Colleen Coyle took a plunge with the penguins at the Dallas Zoo as they gear up for "Dollar Day" Tuesday! (And yes, this required getting in the 4 foot deep, 68 degree pool.)
Instant Live 8 got up close and personal with the Zoo's penguins on News 8 Daybreak Monday. Here's what we learned about our new pals:
  •  Despite the stereotype, not all penguins live in the chilly, icy habitat of Antarctica. Actually, of the 17 species of penguins, only 5 utilize Antarctica.
  • The penguins at the Dallas Zoo are a warm species from the south coast of Africa. They enjoy the spring, summer, and fall in Texas. Even their swimming pool is kept between 65-68 degrees.
  • Their "tuxedo" acts as camouflage. A penguin's white belly blends in with light reflecting off the top of the water. The penguin's black backside blends in with the bottom which is usually murky and dark. This camouflage suit helps penguins hide from predators.
  • For breakfast these African penguins eat fish - a lot of fish! One penguin can eat 1/3 to 1/2 of its body weight in fish.
Bring the family to see the penguins and more Tuesday November 22nd during "Dollar Day" at the Dallas Zoo. Adult admission is just $1. Admission for ages 2 and younger and Dallas Zoo Members is free. Parking will cost $7.


Wildlife warriors track penguin trial

Victor Harbor Primary School students Tiarna, Haymish, Jade and Sean with the bins they have made to raise funds for their project. Picture: Mark Brake. 
VICTOR Harbor Primary School students are trying to solve the mystery of the disappearing fairy penguins on Granite Island.
It is a local environmental issue that the school is tackling from an educational perspective as a trial of the sustainability strand in the national curriculum.
School staff are documenting the Penguins' Sustainability Project so that other schools can eventually access the resources which are being developed for the program.
Since last term, 18 classes from Reception to Year 7 researched fairy penguins to find out why numbers had been declining on Granite Island.
Teachers Rena Kwong and Jess Morris, and principal Brenton Robins are driving the project.
Ms Kwong said staff had identified three questions for classes to research:
HOW important are the fairy penguins to Victor Harbor?
WHAT is happening to the penguins?
WHAT can individuals and the school do to help them?
"Sustainability is in every aspect of the national curriculum so what we've done is made that a school priority, so we are doing as much as we can to have a sustainable impact or outlook as possible across all the curriculum areas," Ms Kwong said.
"We've linked this particular project to both the national curriculum and the document Teaching For Effective Learning."
Ms Kwong said that while the project had specific educational outcomes, it was up to individual teachers to plan activities to cater for their classes.
"The range of activities encompass the whole curriculum - it's not just literacy based," she said.
"The students have written a persuasive text to write to the Victor Harbor Mayor (Graham Philp), created research-based posters, used Multiple Intelligences, posters, powerpoint presentations and made life-size penguins . . . the array of work is phenomenal."
As part of the project, students collected cans and bottles to raise money for the breeding program at the Penguin Centre.
A committee of 10 Year 5 students was responsible for attending youth forums, collecting and sorting cans that were collected from the school community.
The staff also worked with Education Department Teaching and Learning Services sustainability R to 12 manager Jonathon Noble.
Mr Noble said they were developing examples of what schools could do to make the connections with the sustainability strand within the national curriculum.
The school is filming, photographing and reflecting on its learning journey so teachers in other schools can access it through resource-sharing program Scootle.
Year 5 student Jade, a member of the Youth Sustainability Committee, said she learnt penguin numbers had declined from 2000 to 102 in the past 10 years.
"The penguins are important because they attract tourists to Victor Harbor from all over the world," she said.
"There are 10 of us altogether and each week we collect the cans and bottles from the classes and sort them into bags. So far, we have raised $214."


Rena penguins released back to sea

In this image from footage shot by the Bay of Plenty Council some of the penguins race for the water. Photo / BoP Council

By Sam Boyer of the Bay of Plenty Times
November 22, 2011

Sixty penguins spent a grueling six hours swimming non-stop in preparation for their final waddle and swim to freedom this morning.
The micro-chipped penguins, who were released on the beach this morning, spent six hours yesterday swimming non-stop in their pools in practice for the big day.
Dr Brett Gartrell, head of the oiled wildlife center at Te Maunga, said the marathon swim was crucial to make sure the released penguins could handle the rigors of life beyond their pens.
"We're simulating the fact the penguins have to spend the whole day out on the water.
"We've even had a couple go to sleep during the test, which is good, it shows they're relaxed," he said.
After the six-hour swim the birds needed to be checked over to make sure their feathers were completely waterproof.
Only six of the birds failed the waterproofing test and will be held back to get stronger before being released at a later date.
The penguins, released on Mount Maunganui beach at Shark Alley, between Leisure Island and Rabbit Island, were all brought in from areas nearby and Dr Gartrell said they should easily find their way home.
"We know exactly where each bird has come from. They're from Leisure Island, Rabbit Island and Pilot Bay. It's all within easy swimming distance for a penguin. They have a better navigational sense than we do. Most of the time they'll go back to the same burrows over and over again," he said.
No penguins were being released from colonies on Matakana or Motiti Islands or from the seaward side of Mauao because those areas were not yet considered clean enough.
Dr Gartrell said the salinity levels of the pools were being increased to get the penguins used to salt water again after spending so much time in fresh water pools.
Two shags were released on Sunday and Dr Gartrell said it was an emotional moment seeing the first birds released.
"I believe there were people with tears in their eyes. It was a brilliant moment. For a long time we've been in a holding pattern, it was starting to feel like it was going to go on forever. But it was great."
He said the first penguins would be another milestone but there was still more work to do at the center.
"I tell you, it'll feel great [releasing the first penguins], but it won't feel as good as releasing the very last penguins," he said.
He said the center expected to release birds in batches about every five days, depending on the penguins' preparedness. Of the 360 penguins taken into care, only about 20 have died.
Meanwhile, salvors battled winds reaching more than 40 knots (74km/h) to remove a further 21 containers from the stern of Rena. Seventy containers have now been removed.
Maritime New Zealand salvage unit manager Arthur Jobard said the salvage team had done well to remove so many containers in the windy conditions.
"They have still managed to remove a good number of containers, which is excellent."
Mr Jobard said containers landing ashore at the Port of Tauranga were being efficiently processed by container recovery company Braemar Howells.
"Two of the refrigerated containers that held the remains of rotting food came ashore today and Braemar Howells was able to process these within two hours.
"That's excellent progress - the contents of the refrigerated containers are quite nasty and it's good to see them move these through the process quickly."
National on scene commander Alex van Wijngaarden said warm water washing was done on Mauao yesterday to remove residual oil from the rocks. "Following the good results we have seen from this, we will be doing more of this work over the next few days."


Image of the Day

African Penguins by Mark & Tara
African Penguins, a photo by Mark & Tara on Flickr.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Penguins pick up a new home at West Midland Safari Park

Penguins pick up a new home at West Midland Safari Park

Saturday 19th November 2011
Penguins pick up a new home at West Midland Safari Park
A £500,000 habitat has been created to house a colony of Humboldt penguins at a Midlands tourist attraction.
West Midland Safari Park in Bewdley has officially opened its new Penguin Cove exhibit – the latest in a series of improvements to the site over the past year.
The cove has been built in  the Discovery Trail area of the park and is designed to provide the penguins with a habitat similar to their native South America.
Nesting areas, a pool with semi-submerged beach, a waterfall and sculptures all form part of the new habitat.


This Week's Pencognito!


Click here to visit Jen and all those Pengies!

Image of the Day

click here to go to page and download wallpaper

source: Dr. Claus Possberg (www.possi.de )

Friday, November 18, 2011

Little penguins saved by fox eradication program

Little penguins on Phillip Island have been saved by an innovative fox eradication program.
ON PHILLIP ISLAND EVERY evening, the march of the penguins captivates onlookers as thousands of little penguins waddle their way from the shore to their burrows in the dunes.

It's one of the best places in the world to see little or fairy penguins (Eudyptula minor) - the smallest of penguin species. But this daily trek has been declining as fox populations have taken hold since being introduced onto the island by early settlers in 1901.

"Old fox hunts were something they embraced and brought across with them, but they didn't realise the flow-on effects; penguins aren't evolved to [avoid] a predator like the fox," says Stuart Murphy from Phillip Island Nature Park.

In absence of their usual prey, foxes took to eating penguins - and since then, nine out of the original 10 colonies have perished. Stuart says a single fox can kill up to 40 penguins a night.

"Foxes will kill multiple animals when times aren't good - caching [them] somewhere for when condition aren't that favourable for hunting".

Fox eradication the only way to save penguins

Since the 1980s, fox control programs were established to curb their impact, but fox population numbers didn't change and the penguin killing continued.

In 2007, Stuart and his team realised extinction of the little penguin was a real possibility, so fox culling, rather than controlling, became the aim, to once and for all rid the pest from the island.

"Seeing the penguins hanging on for the past 100 years - if we do nothing we'll lose that last remaining colony," he says.

Dr Mike Braysher, an expert in invasive species at the University of Canberra, NSW, says the park was right to begin eradication.

"We know [foxes] have been implicated in the major decline of small mammals there...little penguins are very vulnerable to predators like foxes- that's a clear case for removing foxes."

In the five years since the program began, the team have significantly reduced fox numbers, down to a handful of individuals - and with no penguin kills recorded on the Summerland Peninsula for two years.

Other species, like the ground-nesting birds such as short-tailed shearwaters and hooded plovers, have also benefitted from a decrease in predators.

Award-winning penguin program uses innovative drug

The program recently received the Banksia Land and Biodiversity Award for its innovative methods of eradication, recognising the program's potential to inspire other efforts to battle introduced pests.

Stuart and his colleagues undertook baiting, spotlighting, trapping and fumigating dens during fox-breeding season, but their innovation was the trialling of a new drug to reduced the pest's ability to breed.

Called cabergoline, the drug is a remedy commonly used to treat Parkinson's disease in humans. It terminates pregnancies in female foxes but doesn't kill the fox itself. Stuart says it is used in areas where traditional 1080 - lethal poison used in baiting - may harm native wildlife too.

While initial trials of the drug have been completed, "we are still a long way off being able to use it in the field," Stuart says.

The community has thrown its full support behind the fox eradication program.

"Most people on the island can see the bigger picture and what we are trying to achieve...We've also got half a dozen land producers [who] can see the value in getting rid of foxes."

Tough times ahead for little penguins

With the predators nearly stamped-out, Mike warns the little penguin's future is still not secure.

"It's not just as simple as getting rid of the pest and it's all going to be fine; it's a lot more complex [and] a holistic approach is needed or it won't achieve anything."

Stuart agrees, saying most of their work still lies ahead.

"They say 10 per cent of your resources are used for the first 90 per cent; then 90 per cent of your resources are used for the final 10 per cent."

The few remaining foxes on Phillip Island have proved weary of the control techniques so far, says Stuart, and "will require a huge amount of time and effort to locate and remove these individuals".

The next step is to make the bridge from the mainland hostile to foxes, so the island cannot be repopulated with the predators.


Image of the Day

Emperor penguin and his chick. by Jo Sze
Emperor penguin and his chick., a photo by Jo Sze on Flickr.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Image of the Day

Pink Dot is one of the four chinstraps that hatched at the Central Park Zoo this year, alongside the four gentoo chicks. Her sibling is orange, and the two are known for the waterproof marker dots that keepers used as ID badges to tell them apart when they were young. (These dots have long since faded away.) Keepers know Pink Dot for her easygoing demeanor—though clearly, she's not afraid to speak her mind (want to hear her? Click on "source" below.


PS This is a great little blog to follow, too!!! It's chocked full of valuable information on raising penguin chicks.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Image of the Day

He's grooming me by Gareth Forwood
He's grooming me, a photo by Gareth Forwood on Flickr.

Rescued penguins blossom

Babies outgrowing mum after dog attack 


Mana Stratton
ON THE MEND: Mana Stratton with a little blue penguin rescued after a dog attack.
The penguin mother rescued with her chicks from Split Apple Rock several weeks ago is performing her maternal role so well her babies are now bigger than her, veterinarian Mana Stratton says.
The Mahana veterinarian, with help from her mother, Frances Stratton, has been battling to save the lives of the penguin family after a dog attack at Split Apple near Kaiteriteri robbed the chicks of a parent, and the mother of a critical mate.
Penguins chicks need both parents to raise them, Ms Stratton said.
"All the penguins are doing well and both chicks are well above 1kg. The adult is still very dedicated to the chicks and currently gets six feeds a day. She is now lighter than both chicks, at just over 800g and will need to gain more weight before being released."
Ms Stratton said the chicks were on a diet of a part-feed twice a day and were each shedding their down to reveal adult feathers.
The chicks were found by a Mapua family which saw the attack, and reported it to the Department of Conservation and the Tasman District Council. A member of the family then delivered the penguins to DOC, which took them to Ms Stratton who is a Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry vet with expertise in the care of exotic animals and marine wildlife.
She said the family that rescued the penguins visited at the weekend, and the children, Max and Holly Goulter, named the penguins Split, Apple, and Rock.
"Rock is the adult penguin as she is the `rock' in the chicks' life," Ms Stratton said.
The penguin family's survival depended on their ability to feed and gain weight. The adult penguin was fed fish fillets, and then moved on to more fattening salmon smolt. The aim was to feed the parent enough so it could feed the chicks normally through regurgitating the food.
DOC Motueka area manager Martin Rodd said it was an offence for dogs to kill wildlife, and dog owners could be prosecuted. DOC had passed on information about the dog incident to the Tasman District Council, which followed up.
Regulatory manager Adrian Humphries said the two dogs involved had been identified and steps had been taken to make sure it did not happen again. He said the dogs' owner was horrified by what had happened and had given a significant donation to a penguin welfare fund.


A penguin mystery for Mystery Bay at Narooma

MYSTERIOUS REMAINS: The severed and quite decayed head of a crested penguin was found at Mystery Bay beach, confounding the experts.
MYSTERIOUS REMAINS: The severed and quite decayed head of a crested penguin was found at Mystery Bay beach, confounding the experts.
16 Nov, 2011
LITTLE did neighbours and local Coastcare volunteers Christina Potts and Mandy Anderson realize how much interest and furious research activity they were going to stir up when they discovered the severed and quite decayed head of a crested penguin.The remains were found on the foreshore at Mystery Bay beach just south of Narooma on the Far South Coast of NSW.
“Numerous people must have walked past it and not realized the significance of such a rare visitor to our shores,” Christina said.
“The yellow crest was quite evident and the three-part bill, which is diagnostic of penguins, was in reasonable condition.
“Even the little tongue could be seen inside the gape.”
Numerous photographs were taken of the head from a variety of angles, and the remains were collected for safe storage.
The Coastcare members began a quest to try to identify the bird and to attempt to discover how it might have met its fate and ended up at Mystery Bay.
“We contacted a penguin research facility on Phillip Island and emailed Birds Australia,” she said.
“Both of these contacts passed our requests on to the same person – the man who is the foremost penguin researcher in Australia, who is based in Melbourne.
“His response further sharpened our excitement and enthusiasm, and sent us on a new path of penguin fascination.
“Each of the experts we have contacted has tentatively identified the bird as a Fjordland Penguin, an extremely rare visitor.”
These birds breed and live in the Fjordland area of New Zealand’s South Island and rarely arrive on Australian shores.
When they do, it is almost invariably the result of a severe weather event.
There have only been two recordings of this bird in NSW.
Many more photographs were taken, under expert guidance and instruction. The possibility of the bird being a Snares Penguin is also under consideration.
Ultimately the goal is for the penguin’s remains to be housed amongst the avian collection at the Australian Museum in Sydney.
“It is very exciting to think that a specimen found by volunteers such as us may end up in the Australian Museum,” Christina said.
“It just goes to show that it pays to keep your eyes open to changes in your local area.”
The discovery of this rare penguin at Mystery Bay is an example of the contribution that observant members of the public can make to our cumulative knowledge of how native animals use their environment. Observations such as this can help in the study of how patterns of habitat use change over a long time.
Citizen Science such as this type of discovery and the ongoing care and conservation work carried out by members of the public such these Coastcare volunteers can make a real and significant contribution to understanding how our local land and aquatic ecosystems function.
Mystery Bay Coastcare always welcomes interested helpers and meets at the front beach car park on the first Wednesday of each month at 9.30am.

First Penguin Chicks of the Season Hatch

November 14th, 2011

BALTIMORE, MD – The Maryland Zoo in Baltimore is happy to announce that two African penguin chicks hatched on October 12 and 16, 2011.  These are the first chicks to hatch this season. They were born weighing 106 grams and 94 grams respectively, and they are thriving, gaining weight and growing substantially at each vet check.   Using a blood test, it has been determined that both of the chicks are male.

    African penguins are native to the shores and islands of South Africa.  “In the penguin colony, breeding season runs August through November, which is springtime in the Southern Hemisphere,” said Mike McClure, general curator at the Zoo. “Contrary to popular belief, not all penguins are cold weather birds.  This species of penguin is from a climate similar to what we have in Maryland, and that has proven to be a one factor in the success of our breeding program at Rock Island.”

            The Maryland Zoo has been a leader in breeding African penguins for over 30 years, winning the prestigious Edward H. Bean Award for the “African Penguin Long-term Propagation Program” from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) in 1996.   The Zoo has one of the two largest colonies of the birds in North America, ranging from 55-65 birds at any given time.   The penguins are breed according to the AZA Species Survival Plan (SSP) which helps maintain genetic diversity among endangered species in zoos and aquariums in North America.  Many of the African penguins bred at the Zoo now inhabit zoo and aquarium exhibits around the world.

            Penguin chicks take 38-42 days to hatch out of their eggs after they are laid. Zoo Keepers monitor development of the eggs by candling them about a week after they are laid to see if they are fertile and developing.  The eggs are then placed back with the parents.  “Both the male and the female take turns sitting on the eggs,” continued McClure. “Once the eggs hatch, parents take turns caring for their offspring; they each protect, feed, and keep the chick warm for 2-3 days and then switch off.”

            At Rock Island, chicks stay with their parents for about 3 weeks after they hatch and are fed regurgitated fish from their parents. During this time, zoo keepers and vets keep a close eye on the development of the chicks, weighing and measuring them daily for the first week to make sure that the parents are properly caring for each chick.  When the chicks are 3-weeks-old, the keepers remove the chicks from the nest, and start to teach the chick that they are the source of food.  “We even need to give them baths and swimming lessons to get them used to life in the water,” concluded McClure.
“Although they may initially balk at going in the water, we have to get them in and mimic the training the parents would do in the wild to get their chicks used to swimming.  They are quick learners, and are very soon swimming around on their own.”

            While the fuzzy grey chicks will not be on public view, visitors to the Zoo can see the both juvenile and adult penguins year round. “You can tell the difference between the juveniles and adults, as the juveniles do not have the stark black-and-white coloring that adults do; they are a bit more grey until they molt into their adult coloration,” said McClure.  “And weather-wise, even though it does get cold here, our penguins have been known to hang outside and chase snowflakes at times.  However their door is always open should they choose to come inside and stay warm.”

Download the complete press release


Oiled penguins coming out of rehab

It’s exam time for the little blue penguins at the Te Maunga oiled wildlife centre.

Over the coming days they are going have blood samples taken as part of a veterinary thorough physical health inspection – and undergo a swimming test.

Firming a penguin’s feathers for extended periods of time in the water is a major part of the swimming pool rehabilitation penguins are undertaking in Te Maunga.

The penguins coming to the end of their post oil rehab will be thrown into the swimming pools – and left to swim.
“We have the pools heavily supervised by staff,” says oiled wildlife centre manager Helen O’Connell.
“We will take away the haul-out ramps and just leave them in the pool.”

The birds need to be able to remain buoyant and waterproof for up to six hours so when the penguins return to the wild they are able to go out to sea and forage for extended periods of time.
“What happens when the birds are washed, the detergent affects the integrity of their feathers and it takes them quite a bit of time to preen and realign their feathers so that waterproofing is coming back up to standard,” says Helen.
“It can be weeks, it can be months. It depends on the individual and it depends on the environment that they are in.

“That’s really important, and it’s why we have created the enclosures that we have.
“The pool areas that they have got access to emulates the natural environment, and stimulates their preening because it is through their preening, that preening action that they recreate the waterproofing that they need in order to be released.
“We are just in the process of assessing that waterproofing with a lot of the birds.”
The fresh water enclosure pools and the swimming pools are also becoming saltier, to adjust the birds for the return to their natural environment.

“We’re slowly adding salt into the rehab pools to build up tolerance to the salt water again,” says Helen.
“The process at the moment is assessing their water proofing and increasing the salt levels to approximate sea water so their salt glands which the birds have, aren’t overwhelmed once they go back into the ocean and they can cope with that salinity change.
“Right through the rehabilitation process we are working of getting their feathers healthy again. It’s just toward the end of the release that we start reintroducing them to the salt water.
“It takes somewhere in the order of four to five days to gradually increase the salt. That started in the last couple of days, they started introducing salt to the pools.”

The third criteria on the release programme is making sure the housework is done before the penguins are returned to their burrows round Mount Maunganui, Leisure Island and Rabbit Island.
 “The real driving factor for us is that no birds will be released into oiled habitat,” says Helen.
“The habitat will have to be cleaned to an appropriate level and the operations team is still working on that.”
The burrows and the areas the birds move through to the sea, basically the whole coastal foreshore will have to be oil free.

“We are really dependant on habitat clean-up at this stage. We certainly don’t want to be putting animals back into an environment where they can become re-contaminated.
“It would be just undoing all that hard work that we have just done, and it’s putting the birds through all that additional stress.
“We are assessing all that habitat with operations teams at the moment so we can be confident that when the birds go back out, they are going into habitat that has been cleaned to a suitable standard.”
Today teams are assessing Rabbit Island and Leisure Island. The three Mount Maunganui habitats are being assessed as one area for release purposes.

Motiti Island is going to take a little longer to clean-up and the Motiti penguins are assigned their own enclosure at the Te Maunga centre.
“Motiti is probably going to be a little behind the other sites as far as clean-up,” says Helen.
“I understand there are still some areas of significant oiling out there.
“We are trying to align all those time frame targets, so there is not one thing holding them back. As soon as the habitat is ready we should be able to release.

“It’s anyone’s guess as to when those appropriate end points are reached at this stage.
“We are just trying to manage public expectations around the fact that it’s unlikely to be in the next few days.
“We will just be assessing on a daily basis, as the clean up crews go through and clean-up the habitat is when we can actually put the animals back in the wild.”


Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Review: ‘Happy Feet Two’ taps penguin magic again

November 14, 2011|David Germain, AP Movie Writer
The penguins are as adorable as ever in “Happy Feet Two.’’ Yet a couple of shrimp-like krill at the bottom of the food chain almost steal the show in this animated sequel that sticks to the formula of the original while adding enough variety to give it a life of its own.

It helps to have Brad Pitt and Matt Damon voicing the krill with great energy and companionability as they join a vocal cast that includes returning stars Elijah Wood and Robin Williams.
Director and co-writer George Miller, who handled the same chores on the 2006 Academy Award-winning first film, keeps the focus on penguins in peril while adding an interesting nature-in-perspective angle with the side journey of those tiny krill trying to find their place in a world of bigger, hungrier things.
The sequel delivers the key ingredients that made its predecessor such a hit: lovable characters that audiences young and old will want to follow. A rich blend of pop tunes employed in show-stopping song-and-dance numbers. Remarkable photo-realistic Antarctic landscapes whose bleak beauty pops off the screen even more than in the original, thanks to some of the finest use of 3-D animation since the digital age brought an extra dimension to the screen.
The snowy crags and peaks seemed tactile in “Happy Feet.’’ In “Happy Feet Two,’’ you feel you could reach up and touch them, while the deep blue skies, with their billowy clouds, look real and right outside the window, rather than computer creations projected on a movie screen.
With co-stars Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman out of the picture, “Happy Feet Two’’ is a next-generation story that follows the misfits-finding-their-place pattern of part one.
Once a freak for his tap-dancing skills in a colony where singing was the supreme talent, emperor penguin Mumble (Wood) is part of the establishment now that hoofing has joined crooning as a prized gift.
Mumble and his mate, Gloria (pop star Pink, subbing for the late Brittany Murphy, who voiced the character in the original) have a tyke of their own, whose identity issues seem too pat a repetition of those his dad once faced.
Young Erik (adorably voiced by Ava Acres) hasn’t got rhythm, you see, an embarrassment for the son of the local lord of the dance. Running away with a couple of friends as they chase after Mumble’s buddy Ramon (Williams) on the return to his own penguin colony, Erik meets the amazing “flying penguin’’ Sven (Hank Azaria), whose can-do attitude makes him the idol of the youngster, to Mumble’s detriment.

Miller again shovels on an eco message as a colossal iceberg cast adrift by climate change endangers the entire colony of emperor penguins. Once the crisis arrives, the action bogs down a bit, the movie lingering a long while on its penguins-on-the-precipice menace without a whole lot happening.
But with its interspecies collaboration, as birds, elephant seals and even the little krill contribute to a happy ending, the movie is a stirring, if kind of sappy, endorsement for the good that can result when everyone rows together.
The best addition of “Happy Feet Two’’ are Pitt’s Will the Krill and Damon’s Bill the Krill, who are so engaging they deserve their own buddy-comedy spinoff.
When Will decides to swim out on his own to see the world beyond the teeming krill swarm, skittish Bill tags along. They discover to their horror that krill are just munchies for other aquatic life, sending Will on a comic quest to move up the food chain and become a predator himself.
The krill interludes are delightful, and the dark, quiet depths through which they swim make a lovely contrast to the bright world of the penguins above.
The camaraderie of Pitt and Damon, co-stars in the “Ocean’s Eleven’’ movies, comes through loudly in their goofy banter, making them highlights of an already stellar voice cast.
Williams again does double duty in two breathlessly manic roles, voicing both Ramon and Lovelace, the colorful penguin who becomes a key disciple of Sven. Azaria, one of the vocal masters behind “The Simpsons,’’ extends his reputation as one of Hollywood’s top voice stars, giving Sven a gurgling Scandinavian accent that’s an absolute hoot.
Pink belts out pop songs old and new, co-writing one number, too. Williams, Azaria, co-star Common and even Pitt and Damon get in on the singing, the tunes woven cleverly into the themes and action.
You have to applaud a group of filmmakers that can take millions of disparate creatures — plus songs as different as Queen and David Bowie’s “Under Pressure’’ and the theme from “Rawhide’’ — and unite them in a rousing, harmonic climax where for one brief Hollywood moment, predators and prey have a common cause.
“Happy Feet Two,’’ a Warner Bros. release, is rated PG for some rude humor and mild peril. Running time: 99 minutes. Three stars out of four.
Motion Picture Association of America rating definitions:
G — General audiences. All ages admitted.
PG — Parental guidance suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children.
PG-13 — Special parental guidance strongly suggested for children under 13. Some material may be inappropriate for young children.
R — Restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.
NC-17 — No one under 17 admitted.