Thursday, February 28, 2013

TasRail moves gravel from Penguin habitat

ABC February 27, 2013
Work has started in Tasmania's north-west to rehabilitate the site of a penguin colony which may have been disturbed by a rail upgrade.

Late last year, TasRail replaced ballast on the track at Penguin and dumped the old gravel beside the track near penguin habitats.

TasRail chief executive Damien White says some work has been done since residents alerted the rail operator to concerns about the penguins.

"There is some difficulty running a freight rail operation in Tasmania," he said.

"Volumes are small and the reality is the state desperately needed the funding from the Federal Government and from the state to rebuild the network.

"Some has been removed and again working with the local council, community groups around what other option can we improve the aesthetics, bearing in mind that we still haven't completely finished the job yet."


Penguin distant from ocean

Alexandra veterinarian Sue Robb with the injured rockhopper penguin after operating on it last week. The bird is recovering well and should be released to head back to the Antarctic next month. Photo supplied.
Alexandra veterinarian Sue Robb with the injured rockhopper penguin after operating on it last week. The bird is recovering well and should be released to head back to the Antarctic next month. Photo supplied.
Move aside, Happy Feet. This is a story about an adventurous rockhopper penguin who got lost on the way to the Antarctic and ended up in sunny Alexandra. True story -there really was a penguin in Central Otago, about as far from the coast as it's possible to get in this country.

Central Vets Ltd senior small animal veterinarian, Sue Robb, operated on the 6-month-old injured rockhopper at the Alexandra clinic last week and its arrival caused quite a stir.

''The staff all came and had a look at it - it's the closest most of them have ever been to a penguin,'' Ms Robb said. It was found on a North Otago beach about a month ago with an injured foot, Katiki Point Charitable Trust honorary ranger Rosalie Goldsworthy said. She runs a penguin hospital at the point, near the Moeraki lighthouse, and the rockhopper ended up in her care.

''It was injured at sea. Some creature tried to kill it and got it by the foot - there were big tooth-marks around its ankle.''

It was very unusual to find rockhoppers on our shores and they were rarer than other crested penguins, Mrs Goldsworthy said. The nearest breeding site was Macquarie Island, halfway between New Zealand and the Antarctic. She and Ms Robb have been friends for about 15 years and have worked together on wildlife before, so she asked for the vet's advice.

''Here I usually deal with companion animals - cats and dogs - but in the past I've operated on penguins and other wildlife, and on all kinds of birds from a pukeko through to a sulphur-crested cockatoo,'' Ms Robb said.

The operation to remove the penguin's foot took about 20 minutes and no special equipment was needed, although ''we did turn up the air-conditioning so it wasn't too warm.''

She saw treating wildlife as her ''social responsibility'' and said there was no charge for the operation or care of the bird.

'' I love the idea of being able to treat a rare bird like this and have it return to the wild,'' Ms Robb said. The penguin is recuperating well back at the penguin hospital and was standing up on its stump, and balancing well, shortly after the operation, Mrs Goldsworthy said.

''It's very special and has a lovely nature - not aggressive, but it is assertive. If it doesn't like something, it'll let you know.''

''Sue says it will take about a month to heal and then it'll be heading south for its next adventure. I have every faith it will get back to Antarctica.''

Penguins use their wings for propulsion through the water and their feet as rudders and it was already adapting to with changes to its stance.

''You can tell when they're getting better - they get grumpy and start to jump against the pen when they're ready to leave,'' she said.

The trust is a charity and relies on donations to fund its work. There are 13 penguins of four different species in the hospital.


Image of the Day

That's another penguin by Tambako the Jaguar
That's another penguin, a photo by Tambako the Jaguar on Flickr.

You can also follow Tambako on Facebook HERE

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Second campfire near penguin reserve concerns trust

A second prohibited campfire on Otago Peninsula reserve land in as many weeks has again threatened the fragile yellow-eyed penguin colony, prompting further frustration among firefighters and Yellow-eyed Penguin Trust members.

Portobello firefighters were called to Okia Flat about 9pm on Monday because a fire had been lit on the sand by a man who was camping overnight, after kayaking to the southeast end of the beach, Station Officer Jamie Ramsay said.  ''The fire was on the sand, at the very end of the inlet part of the beach, where there is certainly no fires allowed,'' he said.

Although the man was ''doing everything as safely as possible'', the risk for a campfire to spread remained too great. ''It's just far too risky to even contemplate lighting a fire. Sparks could have [gone] into the grass, which is tinder dry at the moment,'' he said. ''There is an endangered species down there, so even smoking poses a phenomenal risk.''

The campfire had been extinguished by the time firefighters arrived at the remote location.
A fire appliance could not get to the beach, so a different vehicle had to be used. Firefighters spent 90 minutes responding to the incident.

A male tourist was labelled an idiot by Department of Conservation (Doc) volunteers after he lit a campfire at Sandfly Bay, near the threatened colony. Yellow-eyed Penguin Trust general manager Sue Murray said the fire on Monday was the ''last thing'' the colony needed, and trust members were concerned. ''It is a strict no-fire zone anyway, but habitats are even more vulnerable at the moment because of the dry conditions. The fact that it's neighbouring a penguin breeding area gives rise to concern as well,'' she said.

Earlier this month, it was discovered about 60 yellow-eyed penguin adults had died along the Otago Peninsula. The cause is being investigated.


Penguins: Spy in the Huddle Episode 3 Complete Here

Tuesday, February 26, 2013
Penguins: Spy In The Huddle BBC1

"PENGUINS," noted David Tennant. "Behind their feisty charm lies an amazing character." If only the same could have been said of James Corden at the Brits.

Over the past few weeks we've watched these birds, as Tennant noted, 'bring up their chicks against extraordinary odds'. Despite which they've done a much better job than Gail Platt. "This," he said, "is the story of nature's most devoted parents." Certainly it made a nice change from those misery memoirs you see in WHSmith.

However, the average penguin parent shares a common difficulty – 'it's difficult to find their own chick among the crowd'. To combat this, revealed Tennant, 'each uses a distinctive nine note call the chick can recognise'. I use a similar technique with my kids when it's time to leave an indoor play centre.

This week's installment caught up with the chicks in the later stages of development. "The human equivalent of teenagers," we heard, "they have appetites to match." Although their surroundings preclude them from slamming doors and storming off to their bedrooms. "To feed these ever-hungry mouths," said Tennant, "a stream of overworked penguins depart for the sea." It seems humans have more in common with penguins than could be imagined.

While they're away, offspring are preyed upon by petrels (a seabird) and vampire bats. The good news is supermarkets have yet to start using them in ready meals. Some penguins require more sustenance than others. "This one's as big as his mother," noted Tennant of one outsized chick. "He's eating five kilos of fish in a session."

It's like a child's birthday party – there's always one kid who scoffs all the pizza. Eventually, parents stop feeding them and hunger forces them to move to the sea. "Youngsters are nervous," we were told, "they've never left the colony before." It's like when you send them to the off-licence for the first time.

The programme captured the landmark moment they entered the waves. "The drop below is four metres," said Tennant. "It's the biggest step they'll ever take." It's a nature programme, mate, not Splash! "The penguins will never look back," he added, "this is where they're meant to be."
It's a word of warning for those thinking of ordering one for the swimming pool. "Their success," he added, "is due to the extraordinary devotion of their parents." Certainly it made a very good case for extended maternity/paternity leave.

Most of all, Penguins: Spy In The Huddle, proved one thing. To paraphrase Samuel Johnson, when a man is tired of penguins, he is tired of life.


Last chance for peep

Blue penguin
Weigh to go: A little blue penguin chick is weighed as part of the Penguin Education and Awareness Programme



The Penguin Education and Awareness Programme (PEAP) is almost complete for its first season, with the last session set to run tomorrow.

The new programme is a collaboration between the Kaikoura Coastguard and the Kaikoura Ocean Research Institute (KORI).

Founded in 2012, KORI is a network of researchers and educators conducting research on Kaikoura marine life and environment. KORI aims to create a database of marine animals sightings to be used by researchers and students, and to integrate the research into the community through school programmes, field courses and public events. The organisation's two flagship projects are a Kaikoura's Dolphins and Whales Catalogue and PEAP.

PEAP is focused on educating residents and visitors about the fascinating lives of the little blue penguin and on increasing awareness of their needs and threats to their survival.

A big part of this is inviting schools to come and visit the colony to learn about the penguins and see them in the dedicated viewing area underneath the Coastguard building. Fourteen school groups took part in PEAP this season. Penguin sponsorship has also been popular.

PEAP co-ordinator Alastair Judkins said Kaikoura was lucky to be home to the penguin, the smallest in the world.

"Being so small means they are really vulnerable to threats such as roaming dogs, cats and disturbances to their habitat, so letting people know what they can do to help is important."
Last Friday Mr Judkins managed to relocate two adult penguins that were moulting amongst the boulders about to be moved as part of the improvements to the South Bay marina. They are now safely below the Coastguard building.

Over the last month 10 penguins have been undergoing their moult in the Coastguard building. Nine of these are resident breeding adult birds, and the other is a previously unknown juvenile. When the penguins moult they remain on land in their burrows or boxes for about two weeks while their old feathers fall out and are replaced by new ones. During this period they are unable to head out to sea to feed, though the penguins do put on weight prior to the moult to ensure they don't starve. One of the penguins in the building began its moult on January 27 weighing in at a hefty 2.02 kilograms, the heaviest recorded in Kaikoura. As of February 12 he weighed 1.24kg and is still losing weight.

The penguins are very vulnerable at this stage because they are not feeding, and need to conserve their energy. If you find a penguin moulting around Kaikoura, please do not disturb it as it can be a stressful time for them. If you think it may be injured or at risk, you can call the Department of Conservation on 03 319 5641 or in an emergency 0800 362 468.

On Sunday February 10, a penguin census of the Kaikoura peninsula was conducted to locate little penguin moulting sites and to identify any individuals found. During this census no little penguins were found, further suggesting that the small colony in South Bay is a very important breeding and moulting area.

To find out more about PEAP and marine sightings off Kaikoura, check out the KORI Facebook page and subscribe to their newsfeed: Kaikoura Ocean Research Institute -KORI. If you would like to experience a PEAP before the end of the season, call KORI at 027 937 4833.


Calgary Zoo Penguin Dies of Aspergillosis

Calgary Zoo Penguin Dies of Aspergillosis 
According to news, a penguin from the Calgary Zoo dubbed Asa, died after contracting a fungal infection called aspergillosis.

It was noticed by the curator of the zoo, Dr. Malu Celli, in January that the penguin showed signs of cough while she was walking. Cough is not found in birds usually, so the penguin underwent X-rays and her blood samples were taken.

It was, then, found that she suffered from a fungal infection called aspergillosis. Asa was treated by antibiotics and antifungals after the diagnosis. With medicines, she started to recover but her condition took a bad turn on Saturday as her health deteriorated.

Consequently, she died on Sunday, asserted Celli. She also said that fungus occurs in environment and penguin may have contracted it. "I am very confident that she received the best possible care from our keepers and our vets, and it was just a bird that couldn't fight it off", she added.

This is second case of penguin death in two months. Earlier in December, a penguin swallowed a foot long stick and died. Aspergillosis is caused by a fungus called Aspergillus, which is found on dead leaves, stored grain, compost piles and other decayed matter generally. It is characterized by cough, fever, wheezing, weight loss and other similar symptoms.


Monday, February 25, 2013

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Vampire bats attack penguin chicks

Watch the bats feeding on the unsuspecting birds.
Documentary makers have filmed vampire bats preying on Humboldt penguin chicks.
The team travelled to the outskirts of the Atacama Desert in Peru to record how the penguins interacted with other species.
Despite anecdotal evidence of the bats attacking penguins, the behaviour had never been recorded before.

The extraordinary footage features in the BBC One series Penguins: Spy in the huddle.
Humboldt penguins breed in coastal South America where they hunt fish in the cold waters of the current also named after the German naturalist Friedrich Humboldt.

The production team were first drawn to the location by the abundant wildlife, particularly the penguins' survival struggles against a neighbouring colony of 20,000 predatory sea lions.
Although they witnessed vampire bats feeding on the sea lions, it took patience and specialist kit to witness them attacking penguin chicks.
Producer Matthew Gordon admitted that when they first began filming, they were sceptical that the bats fed on penguins.

Penguin party

A Humboldt penguin dives
"Although the local scientists had seen evidence of bite marks on the penguins' feet, no one could say confidently that it happens as they had never witnessed it before," he told BBC Nature.
In the dark caves that are home to the penguins, Mr Gordon, fellow producer Phillip Dalton and cameraman Jim Clare waited patiently in a hide using infrared equipment to monitor exactly what happened.

"As we scanned the colony using the infrared LED, the team observed the penguins reacting strangely to something on the ground, they nervously pecked and showed clear signs of agitation," he said.

"We then fixed our cameras onto one area and waited. Finally, after several hours the team noticed glimmers of light reflecting from the vampire's eyes as it darted around the penguins' feet."
After a further week of observations, Mr Clare was able to capture the bats' feeding behaviour.
"Due to the fact that the penguins are very alert and vigilant the bats seemed to wait until it was extremely dark with little or no moon and star light," explained Mr Gordon.

"Even then, they could not get to feed easily on the adult penguins who were more aware of them. So the bats had to resort to feeding on the less suspecting juvenile penguins."
Mr Gordon described the team as "ecstatic" when they finally got the shots in the last few weeks of a 165 day shoot at the location.

The documentary follows the lives of a variety of penguin species using some unusual filming techniques, including cameras disguised as boulders and even penguins themselves.
Penguins: Spy in the huddle continues on BBC One on Monday, 25th February at 2100 GMT. 

Calgary Zoo loses another penguin

 Respiratory infection claims Asa, one of eight king penguins in exhibit
Calgary Zoo loses another penguin

Asa, a king penguin, died Sunday at the Calgary Zoo. She laid the zoo’s first penguin egg last year and was well known for being a big splashier.

CALGARY — A second penguin has died at the Calgary Zoo.

Zoo officials say Asa, a six-year-old female king penguin, died early Sunday after having struggled with a respiratory infection for weeks. A post-mortem exam indicated the infection, called airsacculitis, was so deeply entrenched that the bird would not respond to medication.

“She’s been sick since very early January, end of December,” said zoo spokeswoman Laurie Skene. “The vets had been treating her for weeks.”

Asa was one of eight king penguins in the zoo’s popular Penguin Plunge exhibit, which opened last year. Her death marks the second loss this winter to the exhibit. In December, a gentoo penguin died after swallowing a foot-long stick.

Skene said that with more than 1,400 animals at the Calgary Zoo, deaths are an unfortunate fact of life.

“It’s sad that within a couple of months of each other, we’ve had these two different situations, but certainly they (the two penguin deaths) are quite unrelated,” Skene said. “They both got the best care possible, but sometimes it’s not enough.”

Skene said veterinary staff believe this particular penguin may have had a pre-existing respiratory weakness that predisposed her to infection. Asa had been part of the zoo’s Penguin Walk attraction, but had not participated in weeks due to her illness.

In September, Asa laid the Penguin Plunge exhibit’s first egg, but the egg proved to be unviable and did not result in a chick.


Image of the Day

Friday, February 22, 2013

Image of the Day

What You Looking At by P.J.Lewis
What You Looking At, a photo by P.J.Lewis on Flickr.

New penguin chicks begin life at Mystic Aquarium

Baby African penguin at Mystic Aquarium  
African penguin chick #1 rests with its biological mother, 26-year-old Red Blue, in the nesting room at Mystic Aquarium.

Posted: Thursday, February 21, 2013  By THE SUN STAFF

MYSTIC — Two African penguin chicks have hatched at Sea Research Foundation’s Mystic Aquarium.

Hatched Feb. 1 and Feb. 10, the chicks weigh 696 grams and 281 grams, respectively. The chicks will be named when they are fully fledged and their gender will be determined by a DNA test at 6 months old.

The chicks can be seen on the Mystic Aquarium website's live African penguin webcam. The live webcam provides the unique opportunity to watch the chicks develop into full fledgling penguins. Viewers can meet the trainers, get up-close views of the chicks, hear firsthand about their progress, and get a behind-the-scenes look at the Roger Tory Peterson Penguin Pavilion.

Penguin fans can also get weekly video updates and submit questions to penguin trainers via Mystic Aquarium’s Facebook page.  In Mystic Aquarium’s “Weekly Bird Bit” videos, penguin trainers share insights on the chicks’ development and milestones, as well as answer two or three of viewers’ most interesting or commonly-asked questions.

During the chicks’ first 40 days, the little ones are unable to maintain their body heat, so they seek warmth under their parents. Viewers will see their heads and beaks emerge when they are hungry and when their parents feed them. Later, the chicks will slowly venture on their own into other areas of their room. Once they are weaned, around day 50, people can observe the aquarium’s trainers teaching the chicks to feed from them.

At 75 to 100 days of age, the chicks will be fully fledged. Their soft down will be replaced with juvenile plumage, and they will be ready to fend for themselves and join the 26 adult African penguins on exhibit at the aquarium.

Mystic Aquarium participates in the Species Survival Plan, a collaborative breeding program through the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. The African penguin is an endangered species. 

Penguin found stranded on New Zealand beach dies

(AP) – 12 hours ago
WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — A royal penguin found stranded on a New Zealand beach has died.

The penguin was found Sunday by hikers. It was emaciated and suffering kidney failure and was taken to the Wellington Zoo.

It was just the fourth time over the past 100 years that a royal penguin has been found on the North Island of New Zealand. They generally live more than 1,000 miles (1,600 kilometers) away around Macquarie Island, about halfway between New Zealand and Antarctica.

Lisa Argilla, the veterinary science manager at the zoo, said Friday that they suspect the penguin suffered multiple organ failure. It was severely underweight, she said, and had no reserves.
She said the zoo did the best it could.

The penguin's arrival has revived memories of another penguin, an emperor nicknamed Happy Feet, that arrived in 2011 and whose recovery at the zoo captured the hearts of many before he was released.

Royal penguins have a yellow crest, eat krill and squid and generally live on and around Macquarie Island, about halfway between New Zealand and Antarctica.

Jenny Boyne, who lives near Tora Beach where the penguin was found, said she drove it to the zoo in a fish crate after staff suggested she bring it in.

"It sat down like a little quiet lamb," she said.

The bird stood up briefly a couple of times and honked but generally lay still for the two-hour journey, she said. She blasted the air conditioning and spritzed the bird with water after zoo staff instructed her to keep it cool. She said she was surprised it had no significant smell.

Argilla said the penguin weighed about 2.7 kilograms (6 pounds) when it arrived.

The penguin was about 1 year old, 50 centimeters (20 inches) long and its sex had not been determined, Argilla said.

Royal penguins can grow to about 75 centimeters (30 inches) and 5.5 kilograms (12 pounds). They are considered a threatened species but not endangered. They shed all their feathers during an annual molt, which the New Zealand penguin had been doing when found.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Penguin deaths research needed


Whatever has killed dozens of rare yellow eyed penguins since late January should be the focus of research, an Otago Department of Conservation (DOC) official says.
An unknown scourge has been attacking the critically endangered species for the past three weeks, more than 50 found dead on Otago Peninsula.

DOC manager biodiversity David Agnew said the most likely scenario was that the penguins had been poisoned by toxins in algal bloom which formed in local seas during certain sea conditions.
Otago entered a period of unusually warm and humid weather conditions at the time penguins began dying.
However, toxin tests on the bodies of individual birds had returned negative results. No new penguin deaths had been reported during the past week, but the cause remained a mystery and needed to be explored, Agnew said.

Discovery of the cause of death was important for the future, he said. This was the second occurrence of its kind in the local population - the last such deaths were in 1990.
"It would be nice to know," Agnew said. "If it's something that is predictable then you could make some decisions because you know it's going to happen again."

Researching the cause, possibly comparing the weather and sea conditions during the two events, would be a good project for someone, he said. DOC, in conjunction with scientists, was now investigating the viability of carrying out more tests.
The deaths had been a major concern. The first dead birds were found on Peninsula beaches between January 21 and 23. Fifty-six yellow-eyed penguins have died.


New penguin attraction to open at SeaWorld May 24

Tuesday, 02.19.13

Construction crews work on Antarctica: Empire of the Penguin, scheduled to open at SeaWorld Orlando on May 24.
Construction crews work on Antarctica: Empire of the Penguin, scheduled to open at SeaWorld Orlando on May 24.
Jason Collier / SeaWorld Orlando

Miami Herald Staff

SeaWorld Orlando’s chilling new attraction, Antarctica: Empire of the Penguin, will open May 24, the park announced Tuesday.

Empire of the Penguin, which SeaWorld says will be the coldest theme park attraction in the world, will be both a ride and an encounter with penguins in their habitat, where the temperature must be kept in the low 30s.

The attraction will be an extension of a practice by SeaWorld Orlando and its sister park, Busch Gardens Tampa Bay, to combine thrills with a wildlife encounter. SeaWorld’s newest roller coaster, Manta, winds through aquariums, while at Busch Gardens, the Cheetah Hunt roller coaster loops around a large, grassy enclosure that is the home of about a dozen cheetahs.


There really may be penguins crossing


penguins crossing
BIRD WALK: Signs have been placed along Marine Pde in Timaru, alerting people to the town’s growing penguin population.
Timaru's port has officially been recognised as penguin territory.

Two yellow and black council signs featuring the image of a penguin have been installed along Marine Pde, alerting passers-by to the area's growing blue penguin population.
The signs were put up by the council last week after the first formal count found at least 50 of the smallest penguin species were living at Caroline Bay.

Thirty people, including conservation group representatives and individuals, both adults and children, took part in the survey on December 20, which was the first of its kind for Timaru.

Department of Conservation (DOC) community relations ranger George Iles announced later that week that DOC, Forest and Bird and the Timaru District Council had started work on ways to protect the birds.

Council parks and recreation manager Bill Steans said the yellow and black signs were part of that work.

"As a result of that penguin count, I was speaking to George Iles, from DOC, and he thought it was a good idea that people and motorists knew that there were penguins in the area."

DOC ranger Murray Thomas said the move from the council was pleasing.

"Anything like that's good. The key thing is to let people know, like seals, it's their natural home."
He said it was important people did not disturb the birds.


Royal penguin still in critical condition

Royal penguin still in critical condition
Wed, 20 Feb 2013 
The juvenile royal penguin's being fed a half-salmon half-sardine mix with vitamins twice a day

The juvenile royal penguin's being fed a half-salmon half-sardine mix with vitamins twice a day

An ailing royal penguin that washed up on the shores of the Wairarapa has been taken to Wellington Zoo in a critical condition.

Royal penguins usually live on MacQuarie Island, halfway between here and Antarctica, and this is only the fourth to appear on North Island shores since 1880.

The juvenile royal penguin's being fed a half-salmon, half-sardine mix with vitamins twice a day. Zoo staff call it "Powerade for penguins". He's also on a drip.

“The two main problems with this bird are kidney failure and starvation,” says Wellington Zoo vet Lisa Argilla. “The kidney failure has occurred because it's come ashore to moult and it's very, very hot.”

He was found at Tora Beach on the Wairarapa coast on Sunday.
“Something's happened out at sea,” says Ms Argilla. “He's not found enough food. Something's gone wrong with his hunting and he's come ashore because he has to moult.”
The zoo's giving him a 20 to 30 percent chance of survival.

Royal penguins usually land at MacQuarie Island. Te Papa's expert Colin Miskelly says they come ashore at this time of year to breed and to moult.

“They have what's referred to as a ‘catastrophic moult’, so they have to stay ashore while they shed all of their old feathers and grow a new set, and that takes about two to three weeks,” he says.
Royal penguins are the largest of the crested penguins in the sub-Antarctic. 

There are only three others known to have come to the North Island – one at Lyall Bay in 1926, another in 1880 at Napier, and the last one six years ago at Cape Palliser.

But his arrival's not as surprising as the zoo's famous former resident – emperor penguin Happy Feet.
“That was so exceptional because it was so much further north than is usually the case for emperor penguins,” says Mr Miskelly.

If the penguin's condition improves over the next few days, he'll spend six weeks at the zoo before he's released back into the wild off the lower South Island.


Watch video here


Meet Happy Feet junior


The sick royal penguin at  Wellington Zoo
RARE FIND: The sick royal penguin – more than 2000km from home – at Wellington Zoo.

A juvenile royal penguin found starving on the Wairarapa's coast has survived the night but remains seriously ill.
The errant bird is receiving medical attention at Wellington Zoo.
It was found near death near Tora, on Wairarapa's coast over the weekend.
It had made it through the night, a zoo spokesman confirmed this morning.
The bird was too weak to stand yesterday, was on a drip and was being fed by a syringe down its throat.

Its misadventures follow those of the emperor penguin nicknamed Happy Feet, which was found on Peka Peka beach in 2011.
Like Happy Feet, the royal penguin should not have ventured anywhere near the North Island. Its home is more than 2000 kilometres away on the subantarctic Macquarie Island.
Only a handful of royal penguins have been spotted in New Zealand, and this is believed to be the first seen in the North Island.

"He's come ashore in New Zealand and it's really hot," Wellington Zoo veterinary science manager Lisa Argilla said yesterday. "He's dehydrated, which has caused his kidneys to fail. He's in critical condition."
The temperature on Macquarie Island at present is about 8 degrees Celsius. In the Wairarapa during the weekend it reached 28C.
The bird was found on Sunday afternoon by Jenny Boyne. "He was lying on his tummy and looked very sad," she said.

She drove it to the zoo on Monday - and it was lucky she did, Dr Argilla said. "He would've just stood there and died. Those people saved his life."
Although zoo staff believe it to be a male, they are not yet sure.
The penguin, who is "not much more than a year old", should weigh about 4.5 kilograms, she said, but it tipped the scales at just 2.7kg.

She believed it probably got caught in a current and became disoriented.
It is now being fed a "fish milkshake" of pureed sardines mixed with vitamins and oil. If it survives, it will need about six weeks to return to full health, and will then be released in the South Island.
Dr Argilla said she was reluctant to name the penguin yet.
"We've been thinking we should give him some poncy royal name, but I don't want to name him until we know he'll survive."

Royal penguins live on the subantarctic Macquarie Island and are listed as vulnerable.
Their royal name comes from the yellow crest on their heads.
They live in very large colonies, with the largest, 500,000 pairs, at Hurd Pt on Macquarie Island.
Royal penguins are migratory, leaving Macquarie Island after the breeding season. It is unknown where they go at this time.
The chicks leave the nest in late February, after which the parents return to sea to fatten for the moult, which begins in mid-March. Then the royal penguins remain at sea until the next breeding season (in September).


Penguins: Spy In The Huddle - Episode 2. First Steps | (FULL EPISODE)

Casanova, furry baby penguin, is born at Adventure Aquarium

An African Black-Footed penguin named Casanova was hatched on Jan. 11, 2013 and debuted to the public on Feb. 14, 2013 at Adventure Aquarium on the Camden Waterfront. ( Photo courtesy of Adventure Aquarium )
An African Black-Footed penguin named Casanova was hatched on Jan. 11, 2013 and debuted to the public on Feb. 14, 2013 at Adventure Aquarium on the Camden Waterfront. ( Photo courtesy of Adventure Aquarium )*450/baby-penguin-born-adventure-aquarium-00005.jpg
An African Black-Footed penguin named Casanova was hatched on Jan. 11, 2013 and debuted to the public on Feb. 14, 2013 at Adventure Aquarium on the Camden Waterfront. ( Photo courtesy of Adventure Aquarium )*450/baby-penguin-born-adventure-aquarium-00004.jpg
Adventure Aquarium announced its newest animal addition Thursday with the birth of Casanova, an African Black-footed penguin.

And there's video.

But it should come with a warning: The cuteness factor of this little creature (gender still unknown, aquarium officials said) might explode your computer screen.

The little hatchling, born Jan. 11 but its existence only revealed to the world Thursday, is the first born to the aquarium's penguin couple, Kali and Tyson.

Since the aquarium began working with a national program called the African penguin species survival plan in 1998, Casanova is the 14th penguin born at the Camden facility."We’re thrilled to report that this African Penguin chick is very strong," said Pagel, Curator of Birds & Mammals at Adventure Aquarium, who has overseen the African Penguin population since 1998.  "It is gaining weight by leaps and bounds, vocalizing and is already starting to walk and learning to eat on its own."
Casanova should become a visible presence to the public by the spring, the aquarium said.


Will he dive? Penguin can't make up his mind

Cause of penguin deaths still not known

Updated at 2:11 pm on 19 February 2013
The deaths of yellow-eyed penguins on Otago Peninsula are still being investigated. Fifty-six penguins have been found dead in the past month.

The Department of Conservation started finding them at breeding sites during annual nest checks.
DoC said water samples have collected for testing for possible toxins.

Biodiversity programme manager David Agnew said the situation is extremely puzzling as no other wildlife appear to be affected and every test so far has been inconclusive.

Mr Agnew said there have been no further deaths over the past few days.


Penguin population is decreasing

By Abby Mace
Campus Correspondent
Published: Monday, February 18, 2013

Whether she’s in Connecticut or around the globe, one thing is for certain: Laurie Macha will be working with penguins. For 20 years, the UConn alum (‘87, ‘91 CANR) has been pursuing her passion for penguins, working both as a supervisor at the nearby Mystic Aquarium and as a rescuer for the South African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds (SANCCOB).

At the Mystic Aquarium, Macha’s role as supervisor is slower paced and more leisurely compared to the environment in South Africa where Macha and her fellow volunteers aim to save as many of the endangered birds as possible. The number of penguins in the South African effort far outnumber that in Mystic. Macha cares for 26 penguins at the aquarium compared to 60 in South Africa. The health of the birds is significantly worse in South Africa than in Connecticut.

Macha’s long time involvement in South Africa, however, is not just fueled by her love of penguins and her skill in taking care of them. There is a dire need to rescue these creatures because the African Penguin population has dwindled over the last century. Since Macha has been a part of the mission, she has seen a 64 percent population decrease in the last decade alone. Macha isn’t certain of the main factor contributing to this decline, but she noted climate change, food shortages and ocean pollution as possibilities in a recent UConn Today feature.

One event that impacted the penguin population was the oil spill of 2000 that occurred on the MV Treasure. More than 1,300 tons of oil were deposited into the waters near the shores of the Dassen and Robben islands, which are prime breeding grounds for penguins.

So what makes up a typical day as a SANCCOB volunteer? The orphaned penguins, which are rescued during November and December from breeding grounds and taken to the Rietvlei Wetland Reserve, must be kept under a close watch. Such high levels of supervision means intensive feeding, medicating and record-keeping routines for volunteers.

Laborious efforts aside, Macha’s experiences are undoubtedly rewarding, especially when she is able to release the once-struggling penguins into the wild- healthy at last. Although her two occupations, aquarium supervisor and wildlife rescuer, are vastly different, Macha couldn’t be happier. After all, she’s working with the penguins she adores.


Royal penguin 2000km from home

Last updated 16:40 19/02/2013

UNHAPPY FEET: The royal penguin that washed up on the Wairarapa Coast at the weekend.



A royal penguin found itself almost 2000 kilometres away from home when it washed up on the Wairarapa Coast. The moulting penguin is suffering kidney failure and severe dehydration and is being cared for at Wellington Zoo.

It was found at Tora in south Wairarapa on Sunday afternoon by Jenny Boyne, who sent a photograph of the bird to Wellington Zoo. ''He was lying on his tummy and looked very sad.'' Ms Boyne drove the bird to the zoo yesterday. Vet science manager Lisa Argilla said the penguin, believed to be a male, was in a "terrible condition".

"He was in a pretty bad way. He's very dehydrated and pretty sick." Royal penguins live on the sub-Antarctic Macquarie Islands and are listed as vulnerable. Dr Argilla said the penguin was probably swimming when it got caught in a current and lost.  "It realised it has to go to shore because it's moulting but it's really skinny. They need to be in really good body condition to moult."

The moulting process usually took about two weeks, but the birds could not hunt during that time so they lost up to a third of their body weight, she said. Dr Argilla said it was "touch and go" whether the penguin would survive. "We just don't know but we're doing everything we can to give him the best chance and get him to return to his island.''

It was being fed a ''fish milkshake'' of pureed sardines mixed with vitamins and oil, and the amount it received would increase as its weight and health improved, she said. Only a handful of royal penguins had found their way to New Zealand, and none of those had made it to the North Island, Dr Argilla said.

The zoo had also received many blue penguins this season, leading Dr Argilla to believe there was a lack of food in certain areas of the ocean. 'It's a big issue some years that climate change has affected food supply.''

The penguin had not been named, but "needed a royal name", she said. If the penguin survived it would likely be brought back to full health before being released back into the wild in the South Island, Dr Argilla said.


Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Image of the Day (Yesterday & Today)

 Northern Rockhopper Penguin (Eudyptes Moseleyi)

Southern Rockhopper Penguin  (Eudyptes chrysocome)

(Top image: source unknown; bottom image: Wikimedia Commons)

Monday, February 18, 2013

VIRAL VIDEO: Penguin Pierre's 30th birthday

(KGO) -- Pierre, the famous wetsuit-wearing penguin at the California Academy of Sciences, celebrated his 30th birthday on Saturday. He received special fishy treats and was serenaded by members of the San Francisco Girls Chorus.
Pierre's story started in 2007, when he wasn't molting (replacing his feathers) properly. A custom penguin wetsuit was made for him to keep warm, something that had never been done before. The suit eventually worked, and Pierre was able to re-grow his feathers and rejoin the colony. 

Inquest begins into Penguin Island drownings

Kate Campbell
The West Australian  
February 18, 2013
Plans were underway to close the Penguin Island sandbar around the time two men drowned while trying to cross it, a coronial inquest was told today.
Coroner Dominic Mulligan started an inquest today into deaths of Indian men Pavan Kumar Ganasala, 37, and Praveen Kumar Pagadala Shiva, 31, who drowned while trying to save their wives after the couples were swept off the sandbar during a family outing on December 28, 2010.
The inquest was told the men, who were not strong swimmers, at one point had their wives on their shoulders.

Coronial investigator Sen. Const. Fiona Thorpe told the inquest that the Department for Environment and Conservation, which managed the island off Rockingham, was being urged to close the sandbar to the public after the weather worsened in the afternoon.
But by the time DEC ranger Murray Banks received authorisation to erect signs to close the sandbar, the men and their wives had already started crossing.

Counsel assisting the coroner, Sgt Lyle Housiaux, said an issue for the inquest might be whether the closing procedures were followed in an effective, timely and appropriate manner.
The inquest was told Mr Ganasala, Mr Pagadala Shiva and their wives left their three young children with Mr Pagadala Shiva's parents to return on the ferry.
The couple decided to cross the sandbar themselves even though they too had return ferry tickets.
The inquest was told that the ferry skipper and kiosk worker advised the couples against crossing the sandbar.

Sen. Const. Thorpe said DEC could not enforce the closure and people still ignored it and crossed the anyway.
But she said she had "no doubt" if the sandbar was closed earlier that the dead men and their wives would not have crossed.
She recommended that visual aids be implemented along the sandbar because people often walked in a straight line into deeper water, not realising the sandbar curved to the south.

The women and Mr Ganasala were pulled from the water by Mr Banks, who tied Mr Pagadala Shiva to the boat with a rope before rushing them to shore.
Ms Adapa said if she had seen and read the warning signs they would never have ventured on to the sandbar.

She called for the sandbar to be closed permanently in a bid to avoid other families experiencing the same tragedy.
Ms Adapa broke down in tears when she briefly gave evidence about the events in the water and the subsequent rescue.

"The tides came very fast ... we couldn't feel the floor. At the start everything is good," she said.
The inquest was told in 2009 out of about 85,000 people who visited Penguin Island it is estimated between 20,000 and 40,000 walked across the sandbar.

The inquest continues.


Image of the Day

Image of an Emperor Penguin creche from BBC's "Penguins: Spy in the Huddle" series on the lives of penguins. Click image for larger image.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Image of the Day

Penguin by Trusty Chords
Penguin, a photo by Trusty Chords on Flickr.

Monterey Bay Aquarium
Monterey, CA

Tourist lights campfire next to threatened penguin colony

By Rebecca Fox
Saturday Feb 16, 2013
DoC biodiversity ranger Mel Young holds a yellow-eyed penguin, which died from unknown causes. Photo / Peter McIntosh

DoC biodiversity ranger Mel Young holds a yellow-eyed penguin, which died from unknown causes. Photo / Peter McIntosh 
Discovering a tourist had lit a campfire in the dunes at Sandfly Bay right next to a threatened yellow-eyed penguin colony was the last straw for Otago volunteer Pat Dean.

With mystery still surrounding what killed at least 56 yellow-eyed penguin adults along Otago Peninsula beaches, the possibility a fire could get out of control and whip through the colony enraged the Department of Conservation and its volunteers. "What an idiot. He could have burnt the whole place down . . . especially given the rough trot we've had,'' Ms Dean said.

DoC ranger Mel Young said the fire risk was high along the coast, especially with a westerly onshore wind. A fire in a penguin colony further south in 1995 wiped out a colony. "Given we've had to take six breeding adults out of there [Sandfly Bay] dead recently, I can't believe it.''

Ms Dean, who has volunteered for six summers at Sandfly Bay, said she approached the German tourist when she saw smoke billowing up from the dunes where the public were asked not to go.
"I shot up the dunes, yelling for him to put it out. He had his tent up and a sturdy fire going under the shelter of marram grass.''

She kicked sand on the fire and dragged the main log down the beach to the water.

The tourist, who had walked to the beach, was urged to leave.

DoC biodiversity programme manager Dave Agnew said it was another stress those working with the yellow-eyed penguins did not need after having to rescue underweight chicks and pick up their dead parents.

Tests at the Cawthron Institute to see if a marine biotoxin had caused the penguin deaths had come back negative, so environmental testing, including deep water testing in known foraging sites, would take place next week.

On the positive side, no dead penguins had been found in the last three days, he said.

Volunteers, DoC staff, the Yellow-eyed Penguin Trust and tour operators would continue to scour the beaches during the next week.


Revealed - secrets of the Torquay penguin keepers

Saturday, February 16, 2013
Western Morning News

Penguins lead a double life, writes Philip Knowling.
On land they are funny little people, waddling like cartoon characters. In water they are torpedo-swift swimmers – they dart past the underwater windows with a sideways glance that seems to say "Fooled you!"
  1. Clockwise from main picture: African penguins cross a zoo path in safety; a macaroni penguin and chick; an African penguin chick befriends a soft toy after being bullied by a sibling;   a macaroni  cools off
    Clockwise from main picture: African penguins cross a zoo path in safety; a macaroni penguin and chick; an African penguin chick befriends a soft toy after being bullied by a sibling; a macaroni cools off
Living Coasts, Torquay's "coastal zoo", is home to two species, Africans – officially listed as endangered – and macaronis. It is one of the largest flocks of penguins in the UK. The main penguin keepers are Lois Rowell and Amy Fitzgerald.

Like all top zoos, Living Coasts has a mission to make a difference. It puts money into international research to help penguins in the wild and gives to SANCCOB, the South African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds.

"Keeping penguins is not like keeping other birds," said Lois. "They can be difficult," admits Amy. "But penguin keeper is my dream job. I love how penguins interact with people, how they respond to and recognise their keepers. They have a fun, happy-go-lucky nature."

Lois explains that it's harder to keep crested penguins than African penguins. "African penguins are used to weather like ours, although the sea currents are colder. The macaronis come from sub-Antarctic islands where temperatures are more extreme. They could overheat here if not carefully managed. They need plenty of shade, and we have an industrial fan which sprays a fine mist of cold water."

The breeding habits of macaroni penguins are unusual. They lay two eggs – the first is only about 60% of the size of the second, has less chance of being fertile and is usually kicked out of the nest before the second is laid.

Lois says: "African penguins are burrow nesters, so to check the nest we have to lie down and use a torch. This can be quite hazardous if the penguin objects, as they have very sharp beaks. I have had a torch broken by an angry penguin!"

What do you have to look out for when you are caring for penguins? "As with any colony bird, some individuals are more outgoing than others," says Amy. "It is important to ensure timid birds get every-thing they need."

Living Coasts has a reputation for being good with penguins. What's the secret? "Experience, enclosure design..." says Lois. "The sand is deep, so the Africans can dig down to nest. We add half pipes to stop the burrows collapsing, but otherwise the penguins dig their own nests.
"Also, there's natural seawater from Tor Bay. The enclosure is large and the location is ideal, right on the coast with plenty of clean sea air."

How many of the penguins can the keepers recognise? "All of our penguins are tagged for ID. We keep detailed records of parentage and health," explains Lois. "Some birds have names – about a quarter – the ones with the memorable characters."

Finally, what makes a good penguin keeper? "You must be observant, caring and willing and able to do heavy work, not mind smelling of fish most of the time and be willing to get very wet and cold on occasion," laughed Lois.

So, for the right person with the right attitude (and the right tolerance to fish), the rewards of penguin keeping in terms of job satisfaction and a nice warm glow of contentment at the end of a long day are pretty high.


African Black-Footed penguin born in Camden

The Adventure Aquarium in Camden has announced the hatching of their newest African Black-Footed penguin, named “Casanova” in honor of its media debut on Valentine’s Day.
Casanova was hatched on Jan. 11 to parents Kali and Tyson.

Casanova, whose gender is unknown, is doing “very well” according to aquarium officials. When the chick first hatched just a little over a month ago, it was the approximate weight and size of a golf ball, but has already grown to weigh nearly three pounds. In a year, Casanova will be the size of a fully grown African Penguin.

This is the first hatchling for Kali and Tyson, who were paired back in 2009 through the Association of Zoos and Aquarium’s African penguin Species Survival Plan, a program that encourages zoos and aquariums to work in concert to help ensure the survival of African Penguins through a scientifically-controlled breeding program. Since it began working with the program in 1998, the Aquarium has successfully bred and raised fourteen African Black footed penguin chicks.

Visitors to the aquarium should be able to see Casanova up close and in person this coming spring, once it has grown large enough to assimilate with the other residents of the Penguin Island exhibit.
For updates, go to


This Week's Pencognito!


Please visit Jen and all the Pengies by clicking here

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Image of the Day

Pierre the Penguin Turns 30!

California Academy of Sciences

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Pierre the Penguin Turns 30!
The year was 1983. Ronald Reagan was President. Michael Jackson and the Eurythmics topped the music charts. Return of the Jedi came out. And at the Maryland Zoo in Baltimore, a small gray fuzz ball hatched out of an egg. His name was Pierre.

On Saturday, February 16, Pierre the penguin will celebrate his 30th birthday at the California Academy of Sciences. Since joining the Academy at four months old, Pierre has seen a lot through the decades. He has lived in three different exhibits in three different buildings—the original Steinhart Aquarium, a temporary downtown location, and African Hall in the new Academy—and he has seen numerous biologists tend to his everyday needs.

African penguins (Spheniscus demersus) were declared an endangered species in 2010. As part of the Species Survival Plan, the Academy breeds and raises this species in collaboration with zoos and aquariums across the country. In his 30 years, Pierre has had several mates with whom he has produced 16 chicks. His lineage is now represented worldwide, with some of his progeny living as far away as Ohio, Idaho, and even Japan! These offspring have gone on to produce approximately 26 grand chicks and four great-grand chicks.

Pierre the Penguin children's bookLiving to such an old age for an African penguin means that Pierre has faced some health obstacles that penguins in the wild, which live 15-20 years on average, would not have. He was the first penguin to wear a wetsuit to help him get through a bout of baldness, a story told on CNN and in the children's book Pierre the Penguin, by Jean Marzollo and Laura Regan. Pierre has had allergies most of his life and takes allergy medication daily (hidden inside a fish) to prevent excessive coughing. And like humans, penguins can develop cataracts with age. Pierre had surgery on both of his eyes to remove cataracts and improve his vision.

Pierre is doing very well overall, and we are excited to see what future adventures he has in store for us. To celebrate his 30th birthday, he will be serenaded by members of the San Francisco Girls Chorus and presented with a specially wrapped gift of fish during the 10:30 am feeding on Saturday, February 16. To enjoy the festivities, visit the Academy in person, watch from home on the live penguin cams, or get the free Pocket Penguins app on your mobile device. Pierre wears a solid blue band on his right wing, so keep an eye out for him!

Do you have a birthday wish for Pierre? Leave a comment on our Facebook wall or tweet us @calacademy.
Pierre in his wetsuit
California Academy of Sciences

California Academy of Sciences