Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Penguins head for South West town


Aleisha Orr

This Fiordland penguin washed up on a Denmark beach this month, the sixth penguin to arrive in the WA town this year.
This Fiordland penguin washed up on a Denmark beach this month, the sixth penguin to arrive in the WA town this year.
Driving to the other part of town for a nice meal is one thing, but travelling 3500 kilometres in search of food is quite another – but not so in the case of two adventurous penguins.

A Fiordland penguin from New Zealand washed up on Denmark beach on Saturday.
It was the second kiwi penguin to find its way to the small south west town in the past two weeks and the seventh penguin to arrive there this year.

One of the penguins that washed up in Denmark earlier this year.
Another of the Fiordland penguins that washed up in Denmark earlier this year.
Denmark veterinarian David Edmonds said the latest arrival was found at a stretch of beach near Torbay, known as Dingoes.
A surfer found the animal and brought it to his clinic.
Two weeks beforehand, a woman found another Fiordland penguin on a beach at Williams Bay.
Both penguins, while having few injuries, were underweight.

The first was just half the size that it should have been at 1.4 kilograms.
The second was slightly bigger, weighing a little more than 2 kilograms.
"They could've been looking for food and gone off track because there was not enough food," Dr Edmonds said.

He said penguins usually ate squid, fish and krill.
"There is a genuine concern that numbers are decreasing because of decreased food sources which may be a result of over-fishing," Dr Edmonds said.
He said the clinic had also looked after four northern rock hopper penguins that arrived in the area in January.

The northern rock hoppers would have come from the opposite direction of the kiwi penguins; they live in the Amsterdam and St Paul islands 3500 kilometres west of WA.
Dr Edmonds was also aware of another penguin being looked after by an animal carer in Albany.
He said the number of penguins reaching the area was high this year, compared to just one last year.
The two penguins still at Denmark Veterinary Clinic are expected to be released next week once their health improves and they have gained weight.

"We will take them out a couple of kilometres from land and let them go," he said.
Dr Edmonds said while it was not known how penguins managed to navigate such long distances; the penguins had the ability to find their way back to New Zealand if they survived the long distance swim.

"We're just hoping to get them healthy so they have their best chance."
He said he expected that the two would make their way back home separately despite plans for them to be released together.
"They don't tend to stick together," he said.


Image of the Day

Gorfou Sauteur by Manu Barret
Gorfou Sauteur, a photo by Manu Barret on Flickr.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Image of the Day

African Penguin. by Nuao
African Penguin., a photo by Nuao on Flickr.

Penguin washes up on WA beach

Toyah Shakespeare, The West Australian July 30, 2012
Penguin washes up on WA beachDenmark Veterinary Clinic veterinary nurse Chris Spencer feeds squid to the penguin. Picture: Laurie Benson/Albany Advertiser
Experts believe a tiny penguin that washed up in Denmark two weeks ago travelled for well over half its life from New Zealand's South Island before reaching a local beach on July 15.

The 10-month-old Fiordland penguin, weighing little more than 1kg, made a 3500km, six-month journey through the Southern Ocean to become the first of its kind to reach WA this year. It has been recovering at Denmark Veterinary Clinic.

Veterinarian David Edmonds said the bird most likely hatched in August or September and left New Zealand in November.

"The best theory is that he was feeding from the continental shelf near Albany and probably became storm-wrecked," he said.

Victorian bird expert and author Ken Simpson has confirmed the penguin as a Fiordland, one of five that have landed in Australia this year - two in South Australia and two in Victoria.
Dr Edmonds said the penguin was being fed squid mixed with salt and placed in a paddle pool to help waterproof its feathers.

"When he arrived, he could barely stand and now he can walk around," Dr Edmonds said. "He also had an eye injury which has healed."

The penguin now weighs 1.7kg but needs to be about 3.5kg.
Dr Edmonds has also looked after four rockhopper penguins which swam ashore this year after travelling 3500km from the west.

The arrival of the five penguins in Denmark was a sign that they were having to go further for food and that might be because of overfishing, Dr Edmonds said.

The Fiordland penguin will be released back into the wild.


Friday, July 27, 2012

A Clean Get-a-way!

Images of the Day

Images courtesy of Metro Richmond Zoo

Hands-on with the Taranaki penguin guy

people can get an “oiled” bird's-eye view of surviving the Rena environmental disaster next week.
The man in charge of the wildlife hospital in the Bay of Plenty following the October 5 grounding of the Rena will be talking and showing pictures at Puke Ariki on Monday night.

“I will be taking people through the whole system as if they were an oiled bird,” says Brett Gartrell, Associate Professor at the New Zealand Wildlife Health Centre at Massey University.

The hospital cared for 420 birds that had been affected by the oil spill. Of those, 375 were released back into the wild. The rest died.

While that was about a 90 per cent survival rate of collected live birds, the impact on wildlife in the area was severe. “This is by far and away the largest oil spill in New Zealand and probably the worst place for it to happen, given the diversity of seabirds and marine mammals. That's why it's called the Bay of Plenty.”

For Dr Gartrell the worst thing was seeing the wildlife death toll first hand. “Early on, we laid out all the severely affected dead birds on a tarp and it was just an overwhelming sight to see because so many were unrecognisable because they were covered in so much oil,” he said.

“A huge number of birds were dying before we could get to them.”

In all, the wildlife rescuers picked up 2030 dead seabirds and 67 per cent of those were oiled.
There were more penguins found alive than dead, but the diving petrels were the hardest hit. About 880 died in the disaster.

About 150 wildlife experts and volunteers were involved at the height of the rescue and recuperation operation. “Most of those were local people who trained up on site. People were doing everything from cleaning oily cages, feeding birds to cleaning up penguin poo from enclosures. It was pretty glamorous work.”

The first birds covered in oil were collected on October 7, two days after the container ship ran aground on the Astrolabe Reef off the coast of Mt Maunganui. “We released the last bird on March 21 this year,” Dr Gartrell said.

“The ones that came in initially, their plumage was 100 per cent covered in oil. Later on, the oil levels dropped off but the birds coming in were a lot sicker because they had a lighter cover for a longer time.”

Oil takes away seabirds' waterproofing and thermal insulation. “If we didn't pick them up straight away they would either drown or die of hypothermia.”

Also, as the birds try to clean themselves, they ingest oil, which is toxic to them and affects the liver and kidney.

The 6pm talk, dubbed Wildlife Rescue Heroes, is presented as part of the 60 Springs programme, a partnership of Puke Ariki, Shell NZ and Taranaki Regional Council.


Thursday, July 26, 2012

Penguin hatched at New York Aquarium now on display

Video by Mark Petersson | © WCS
Posted: Jul 25, 2012
 A black-footed penguin chick at the New York Aquarium (photo by Julie Larsen Maher | © WCS
A black-footed penguin chick at the New York Aquarium (photo by Julie Larsen Maher | © WCS)
A black-footed penguin chick at the New York Aquarium (photo by Julie Larsen Maher | © WCS)
  A young penguin is now on display at the New York Aquarium on Coney Island, the Wildlife Conservation Society announced.
The female black-footed penguin chick, born in February, is the first one to hatch in 15 years at the aquarium, the society said in a news release.

Black-footed penguins, native to the southern tip of Africa, are designated as endangered.
"The arrival of this penguin chick is a significant event for the New York Aquarium," said Jon Forrest Dohlin, the director of the aquarium. "The birth of any endangered or threatened species helps us further our goal of educating and enlightening people about the need to help save fragile ocean ecosystems and the wildlife that lives here."

Visitors can see the chick in the Sea Cliffs exhibit, which features both indoor and outdoor sections.
Black-footed penguins are part of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums' Species Survival Program, a cooperative breeding program, the WCS said.

The Wildlife Conservation Society mission is to save wildlife and wild places around the world, according to its news release. In addition to the New York Aquarium, the society runs the Bronx Zoo, the Central Park Zoo, the Queens Zoo, and the Prospect Park Zoo.


Natural causes killed penguins along Brazilian coast, scientists say

July 17, 2012|
By Marilia Brochetto and Rory Anderson, CNN
Marine scientists say the birds are badly decomposed but otherwise seem unhurt and without oil stains.
Researchers at the Brazilian Center for Coastal Studies at the Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul in southern Brazil believe that 745 penguins found washed up along the state's coastline since June 15 have died of natural causes.

The center, known as Ceclimar, said in a release this week that it reached the conclusion after analyzing the conditions in which the animals were found. Most of the birds were young, according to biologist Mauricio Tavares. The lean birds showed no signs of external injury or oil in their plumes.
"Birds in the first year of life are inexperienced," he said, adding that the pattern of dead birds is common for this time of year and that the deaths are a result of "the process of natural selection."
In 2010, more than 550 penguins washed up on Sao Paulo state's Atlantic coast. In that case, necropsies showed that the penguins died of starvation.

The Peruvian government launched an official inquiry this year when close to 3,000 dolphins and more than 500 pelicans washed up along that country's northern Pacific coast.

This case is the first in which Ceclimar is conducting a more intensive monitoring of deaths. According to Tavares, July is historically the month when more birds arrive at the center for rehabilitation after washing up on the beaches weakened, injured or covered in oil.

"The animals usually migrate from Argentina around this time of year in search of food and warmer weather, and each year, some do wash up," he said. "But over 500 is a very, very high number."
Ceclimar set up weekly monitoring along the Rio Grande do Sul coast to study the dynamics of the Magellan penguins.

The biologists working at the center also collected 30 birds for a more detailed analysis; that report should be completed within a month. The release says the physical state of the birds is such that researchers could designate the deaths natural.

Tavares said earlier that "the animals were a lot smaller in terms of size and weight than normal penguins, so we think it will be natural causes, but it is certainly very strange."
Penguins have also shown up along the famous beaches of Rio de Janeiro. CNN affiliate TV Record reports that since the end of June, almost 40 penguins have been rescued along the beaches. In those cases, the birds are being cared for by SOS Aves and the Chico Mendes Institute for Conservation of Biodiversity.


Disappearing act

Group of penguins.
Photo Credit: Stephanie Jenouvrier/WHOI
A group of emperor penguin adults make their way across sea ice in Terre Adélie in East Antarctica. The seabirds rely on sea ice for breeding and raising their young, but declines in sea ice from warmer temperature may be affecting the colony, according to new research.

Disappearing act

Sea ice linked to decline of emperor penguin colony in East Antarctica

If global temperatures continue to rise, an emperor penguin colony in Terre Adélie in East Antarctica may eventually disappear, according to a new study led by researchers from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) External Non-U.S. government site. The study was published in the June 20 edition of the journal Global Change Biology.

“Over the last century, we have already observed the disappearance of the Dion Islets penguin colony, close to the Antarctic Peninsula,” said Stephanie Jenouvrier External Non-U.S. government site, WHOI biologist and lead author of the new study, in a press release from WHOI External Non-U.S. government site. “In 1948 and the 1970s, scientists recorded more than 150 breeding pairs there. By 1999, the population was down to just 20 pairs, and in 2009, it had vanished entirely.”

Jenouvrier thinks the decline of the penguins in both locations might be connected to a simultaneous decline in Antarctic sea ice due to warming temperatures in the region.

Unlike other sea birds, emperor penguins breed and raise their young almost exclusively on sea ice. If that ice breaks up and disappears early in the breeding season, massive breeding failure may occur, according to Jenouvrier.

“As it is, there’s a huge mortality rate just at the breeding stages, because only 50 percent of chicks survive to the end of the breeding season, and then only half of those fledglings survive until the next year,” she said.

Disappearing sea ice may also affect the penguins’ food source. The birds feed primarily on fish, squid and shrimplike krill, which in turn feeds on zooplankton and phytoplankton, tiny organisms that grow on the underside of the ice. If the ice goes, Jenouvrier said, so too will the plankton, causing a ripple effect through the food web that may starve the various species that penguins rely on as prey.

Emperor penguins with chicks.
Photo Credit: Paul Ponganis/Antarctic Photo Library
Emperor penguins and chicks from a different colony in the Ross Sea region.
To project how penguin populations may fare in the future, Jenouvrier’s team used data from several different sources, including climate models, sea ice forecasts, and a demographic model that Jenouvrier created of the emperor penguin population at Terre Adélie, a coastal region of Antarctica where French scientists have conducted penguin observations for more than 50 years.

Combining this type of long-term population data with information on climate was key element to the study, said Hal Caswell External Non-U.S. government site, a WHOI senior mathematical biologist and collaborator on the paper whose research on the project was funded by the National Science Foundation External U.S. government site.

“If you want to study the effects of climate on a particular species, there are three pieces that you have to put together,” he said. “The first is a description of the entire life cycle of the organism, and how individuals move through that life cycle. The second piece is how the cycle is affected by climate variables. And the crucial third piece is a prediction of what those variables may look like in the future, which involves collaboration with climate scientists.”

Marika Holland External Non-U.S. government site of the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) External Non-U.S. government site is one such scientist. She specializes in studying the relationship between sea ice and global climate, and she helped the team identify climate models for use in the study.

Working with Julienne Stroeve External Non-U.S. government site, another sea ice specialist from the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) External Non-U.S. government site, Holland ultimately recommended five distinct models.
Emperor Penguin
Photo Credit: Stephanie Jenouvrier/WHOI
Emperor penguins breed and raise their young almost exclusively on sea ice, which is shrinking in some areas around Antarctica from climate change.
“We picked the models based on how well they calculated the sea ice cover for the 20th century,” she says. “If a model predicted an outcome that matched what was actually observed, we felt it was likely that its projections of sea ice change in the future could be trusted.”

Jenouvrier used the output from these various climate models to determine how changes in temperature and sea ice might affect the emperor penguin population at Terre Adélie. She found that if greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise at levels similar to today — causing temperatures to rise and Antarctic sea ice to shrink — penguin population numbers will diminish slowly until about 2040, after which they would decline at a much steeper rate as sea ice coverage drops below a usable threshold.

Best projections show roughly 500 to 600 breeding pairs remaining by the year 2100. Today, the population size is around 3,000 breeding pairs.
The effect of rising temperature in the Antarctic isn’t just a penguin problem, according to Caswell. As sea ice coverage continues to shrink, the resulting changes in the Antarctic marine environment will affect other species, and may affect humans as well.

“We rely on the functioning of those ecosystems. We eat fish that come from the Antarctic. We rely on nutrient cycles that involve species in the oceans all over the world,” he said. “Understanding the effects of climate change on predators at the top of marine food chains — like emperor penguins — is in our best interest, because it helps us understand ecosystems that provide important services to us."
Also collaborating on the study were Christophe Barbraud and Henri Weimerskirch of the Centre d'Etudes Biologiques de Chizé, in France, and Mark Serreze of the NSIDC.

NSF-funded research in this article: Hal Caswell, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Award No. 0816514 External U.S. government site

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Image of the Day

The long walk back by DJG.Sydney
The long walk back, a photo by DJG.Sydney on Flickr.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Firing at seals urged to protect penguins

The World Today

Updated July 24, 2012 
Firing lead-filled beanbags at fur seals is the latest idea suggested to help protect vulnerable penguins at Kangaroo Island in South Australia.
The island's Penguin Centre says it could help discourage seals from entering penguin habitats and eating them.
But the SA Environment Department is not supporting the idea.
Despite their name, the area's New Zealand fur seals are native to Australia and a protected species.
But some residents of Kangaroo Island, south of Adelaide, believe the seals are causing the decline in penguin numbers.
John Ayliffe runs the KI Penguin Centre and says in recent weeks about five penguins have been taken by seals in the Kingscote area.
"The increase in New Zealand fur seals has led to the rapid decline of penguin numbers in the area because the New Zealand fur seals are eating them," he said.
The beanbags are simply kevlar bags full of lead shot and they're discharged by a shotgun. Now because the lead shot is in a kevlar bag, it hits the seal like a punch and it will not penetrate the skin provided it's fired from sensible distances. Now seals are very smart and they move away from an area if disturbed.
John Ayliffe

"There was a very strong colony at Cape Gantheaume. The New Zealand fur seals started breeding there and ate all the penguins and eventually the penguin will become locally extinct around Kangaroo Island and the southern Fleurieu [Peninsula] area."
Mr Ayliffe wants a new method tried to tackle the seals, shooting beanbags at the fur seals as a deterrent.
"The beanbags are simply kevlar bags full of lead shot and they're discharged by a shotgun," he explained.
"Now because the lead shot is in a kevlar bag, it hits the seal like a punch and it will not penetrate the skin provided it's fired from sensible distances.
"Now seals are very smart and they move away from an area if disturbed."
The idea has been raised with the state Environment Department, but it has issued this statement as a response.
"Interactions between New Zealand fur seals and penguins are a natural phenomenon over which humans have little control.
"New Zealand fur seals are native to Australia and New Zealand, including Kangaroo Island waters, and the population is only now recovering from commercial sealing."
Tim Kelly of the Conservation Council said he could understand the view of the tourism interests on the island.
"I can understand the frustration of the penguin tourist operators on Kangaroo Island wanting to do something to increase the numbers of the penguins, however, I guess we still have concerns about the state of the population of the seals," he said.
"The New Zealand fur seals are endemic to Australia. Their numbers were decimated in the 1800s with approximately 100,000 animals taken off the island.
"Their numbers are now about 25,000 and increasing, which we think is a good thing."

Other threats

Mr Kelly says other threats to the penguins need to be taken into account.
"Things like dog attacks that have occurred in the past, things like nest predation is another potential problem," he said.
"We need to make sure that those things aren't continuing and aren't happening.
"Now that may not change the outcome that the natural population of penguin colonies might be much smaller."
For his part, Mr Ayliffe thinks the seals are not only endangering penguin numbers, but also other species such as cuttlefish and King George whiting.
He is among locals of KI who are keen to see the seals culled.
"You have to appreciate that Phillip Island (in Victoria) has about a million people doing a penguin tour each year, it costs each person about $200 to do that tour by the time they stay overnight and pay for meals and things," he said.
"We know that we have a better tour when the penguins are here than Phillip Island and from the state's economy and the tourist industry on Kangaroo Island this is a really necessary attraction because there are no penguins in the northern hemisphere."


Image of the Day

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

SeaWorld shares video of new penguin attraction

SeaWorld’s Antarctica — Empire of the Penguin has a new video online.
SeaWorld’s Antarctica — Empire of the Penguin expansion is slated to open in Spring 2013.

The video shows renderings of the new dark ride as well as some other features such as face to face interactions with the chilly animals.

Date: Monday, July 23, 2012

SeaWorld’s Antarctica — Empire of the Penguin has a new video online. 

Alright, I’m getting excited. SeaWorld’s Antarctica — Empire of the Penguin has a new video online.
The video shows renderings of the new dark ride, which recreate the arctic habitat of penguins, as well as some other features such as face to face interactions with the chilly animals.

The new attraction will utilize a changing theme, much like Disney’s Hollywood Studios Star Tours, which provide a different story and experience each time for the guest.

In addition, SeaWorld’s Antarctica — Empire of the Penguin will remain in a constantly cool temperature to recreate the world for guests.

The SeaWorld expansion is slated to open in Spring 2013.


Image of the Day

Cape Town_2012 05 16_0087 by HBarrison
Cape Town_2012 05 16_0087, a photo by HBarrison on Flickr.