Have you eaten a quarter of your body weight in food over the last 24 hours?
It may well feel like it, but the answer
to this question is almost certainly no…unless you are a Galapagos
penguin! In order to be in peak condition, Galapagos penguins require
between a fifth and a quarter of their body weight in food every day.
Unfortunately, many of the fish species which Galapagos penguins rely
upon for food are becoming scarcer as a result of overfishing and global
climate change, causing significant declines in population numbers and a
reduction in breeding success. As a consequence of this and the other
threats that Galapagos penguins face, the species is now one of the
rarest penguins on the planet, and faces a 30% chance of extinction in
the next century.
pair of African penguin chicks hatched four weeks ago were removed from
their nest and given physical examinations Thursday. The chicks, a
male, left, and a female, weighed a little more than 2 pounds. Their
parents are Sidney and Bette.
By Robert Zullo / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
National Aviary director of veterinary medicine Pilar Fish weighs the female African Penguin chick.
Is it their inelegant tottering, stubby wings or adorable corpulence?
All of the above?
Visitors stopping for a look at the National Aviary's two new penguin
chicks during their introduction to the public Thursday had a hard time
putting the flightless aquatic birds' appeal into words. "Their actions are funny," said Maegen Snee, 21, visiting from Dallas
with her mother and checking in on the chicks through a window into the
aviary's "brooder room." "They just kind of waddle around."
Katie Cullen, 20, and her brother Sean, 13, from Bradford Woods, made
the trip expressly to see the new African penguins, the second pair of
penguin chicks hatched at the North Side aviary. The chicks, which have yet to be named, are part of a cooperative
captive breeding program with every other zoo in North America. "My dad saw this was the first day they were [on display]," Ms. Cullen said. "I love penguins. ... They're just interesting." By 3 p.m., aviary staff said, about 600 people had filed into the
aviary, many asking about the new arrivals, born Nov. 29 and Dec. 2. "People just love penguins," said Teri Grendzinski, the aviary's supervisor of animal programs.
African penguins, native to the rocky coastlines of South Africa and
Namibia, are an endangered species threatened by oil spills, habitat
loss, overfishing and climate change, Ms. Grendzinski said, adding that
the birds' population has plummeted about 90 percent in the past 100
years. "Our goal is to have future generations for zoos," she said. "The
plan for these guys is to keep them here and use them as educational
To that end, the chicks will be hand-raised in the nursery to instill
a bond with humans so they can take part in the aviary's array of
educational programs, which aim to "inspire a respect for nature through
an appreciation of birds," the aviary says. "We have to have penguins that are used to people," said Robin Weber, the aviary's director of marketing and communications.
Growing up away from the rest of the penguin colony also protects the chicks from the rocky exhibit and the other 16 birds. "They're naturally very aggressive with each other," said Ms.
Grendzinski, who can testify to the strength of the penguins' beaks and
has the bruises and bite marks to prove it. "People say penguins are
cute and cuddly. ... I say they're cute."
The newest penguins will spend the next few weeks eating smelt and
growing. The chicks are expected to add 10 percent of their body weight
every day. The penguins are expected to be fully grown -- about 18 inches tall
and weighing up to 9 pounds -- in less than three months, so get a
glimpse of the newborns quick. "They're not going to be cute, fuzzy babies for long," Ms. Grendzinski said.
Two Gentoo penguin chicks were recently hatched at the Moody Gardens Aquarium Pyramid.
The penguin exhibit at the Moody Gardens Aquarium Pyramid has a pair of fuzzy new additions.
"Two cuddly Gentoo
chicks hatched this week, marking the first hatching of the season,"
according to a news release dated Dec. 12 from Moody Gardens. "The
chicks currently weigh 255 and 110 grams, respectively.
The small, fuzzy
birds can be seen in the South Atlantic exhibit with the other Moody
"The new chicks and six other Gentoos
will be transported to The Deep in Hull, England, beginning Feb. 19.
The Deep contacted Moody Gardens to assist with obtaining penguins for
its new penguin exhibit."
Moody Gardens is at 1 Hope Blvd., Galveston.
Our newly hatched Penguin chick siblings Pumpkin and Patch
are experiencing their very first holiday season at Adventure Aquarium!
See what happens when they take in the sights of our annual Christmas Celebration:
Dear Santa, I would like a bucket of fish for Christmas…
A meeting of epic proportions: Rudolph meets Pumpkin!
And of course…no visit to Adventure Aquarium is complete without a visit to Ocean Realm!
B09B has cut off Cape Denison from the Southern Ocean and filled
Commonwealth Bay with fast ice, leaving penguins short of food and their
numbers are falling
Every coast or sea we have visited in Antarctica, we have seen
penguins. They come to the shoreline to investigate our ship as we sail
past, they hop on and off ice floes, flocks of them fly in formation
through the water. Night or day, there are always a dozen penguins, at
least, within sight of the ship.
At Cape Denison, where Douglas Mawson built his base camp, the colony
of Adelie penguins consists of several rookeries, each one spread
across the rocks in the valleys around his huts. “Weddell seals and
Adelie penguins in thousands rested upon the rocks,” wrote Mawson about
ariving at Cape Denison in January 1911. “The latter chiefly congregated
upon a long, low, bare islet situated in the centre. This was the
largest of the group, measuring about half a mile in length.”
He often wrote about the birds in his accounts, and one of the rocky
outcrops near the huts was even nicknamed Penguin Hill. The plentiful
numbers meant there was always a potential source of fresh meat, his
expedition-members noted, but no one at the time made any scientific
counts of the birds.
At Cape Denison last week, the descendants of those penguins were
still there. The presence of the fast ice around iceberg B09B, though,
had left its mark: the birds were short of food and their numbers were
On our brief visit to Mawson's huts last week, ornithologist
Kerry-Jayne Wilson spent her 10 hours at the site walking several
kilometres up and down the scree slopes in the surrounding valleys,
counting penguin nests. “What we want to know is the number of pairs of penguins nesting here
this year,” she told me before starting the count. “They'll be
incubating their eggs and so, for every pair nesting, there will be
either the male or female incubating their two eggs. That's the key
parameter for us to measure.”
Adelie penguins breed around the ice-free areas of the continent of
Antarctica. Along with the Emperor penguins, Adelies are among the
southernmost of the penguins and, because they rely on the presence of
pack ice around the continent to survive, their populations can track
changing ice conditions in the region.
Iceberg B09B has cut off Cape Denison from the Southern Ocean and
filled Commonwealth Bay with fast ice, locked to the land. “Fast ice is a
problem for penguins because it's continuous ice cover that prevents
penguins from having access to the sea for feeding,” says Wilson. “If
the fast ice is extensive, the parent penguins have to go much further
to obtain food, that means the one left sitting on the eggs has to sit
for longer, that means chicks get fed less often, that means that birds
are less able to get into breeding condition before the breeding season
Penguins have a limited range over which they can forage while
breeding, they cannot walk or swim too long before they have to come
back and relieve their partner at the nest.
At Cape Denison, Wilson took me to a small rookery about a kilometre
over the hill from Mawson's main hut. Looking down the slope, there were
about a hundred or so penguins sitting on or near nests they had made
from piles of rocks. Whenever they stood up, we could see large eggs
under their guano-stained bellies. A few hundred metres beyond them,
further down the slope, we could see the shoreline where the ocean would
have been four years ago. All we saw that day was ice, all the way to
the horizon. Beyond that was another 50km of ice. There was no open
We stood about a metre away from a few of the penguins – one of them
sat on its nest – which ignored us. It was nearly midnight but the sun
was high and warm in the sky. Wilson had finished her count of the birds
and confirmed that the numbers were down. There were still many
thousands, she said, but they were more sparsely spread than previous
counts had recorded in the 1980s.
She also said that a great number of eggs had been abandoned in the
rookeries. These eggs were either sitting alone in the rocks or being
incubated without much enthusiasm from the parents. I saw what she meant
– instead of sitting on their eggs, some of the penguins would just
stand next to them, occasionally rolling the eggs around between their
Most worrying, though, was the sheer number of dead chicks that
littered the rookeries – penguins that had not quite survived to their
first moult. If food is scarce, said Wilson, adult Adelie penguins tend
to give up on rearing their young for that year, preferring to try again
the following breeding season when there might be a better chance of
Perhaps the most eerie thing about the rookeries was how quiet they
were. We've seen a lot of penguins in the past week and, whether they
are alone or in groups, you can be sure of one thing about the birds –
they like to make a noise. However close we stood next to the nesting
penguins at Cape Denison, they stayed silent. Whether sitting or
standing, they ignored us completely, not moving, staring directly ahead
the whole time we walked around them.
Wilson said that the decline in penguin numbers at Cape Denison will
continue as long as the fast ice persists. Wilson says that adults
birds, which can live for several decades, will breed less or stop
altogether until the ice breaks up and food becomes plentiful again.
That means that there will be no new blood at the rookeries for a long
time. And neither will the penguins try to move to another part of
Antarctica, with easier access to the coast. Once the establish
themselves at a rookery, they will stay there for life, she said. If
their food source dries up, they will just wait for it to come back. “That has happened in a number of places around Antarctica,” says
Wilson. “To some extent it's a natural process and that will happen from
time to time at a number of colonies. But, with climate warming, the
rate at which icebergs are calving off the ice edge is increasing so the
number of times in which icebergs will cut off access to colonies is
going to occur more frequently.”
When the fast ice eventually breaks up at Commonwealth Bay, penguin
numbers will start to rise again, assuming the colony has not been
irrevocably devastated. With the fast ice still there, though, it is now
a slow war of attrition between the number of penguins and the extent
of the ice.
The city’s NHL team has been battered by injuries, but the newest
penguins in Pittsburgh won’t be suiting up at the Consol Energy Center
to help out.
The National Aviary on the North Side says two penguin chicks were
born in the past month, bringing the total number of African penguins at
the aviary’s Penguin Point exhibit to 18.
The chicks, a female and a male that have not yet been named, were
hatched Nov. 29 and Dec. 2, respectively, and are the offspring of a
couple named Sidney and Bette, said Cheryl Tracy, the National Aviary’s
managing director, in a news release. “The chicks are thriving, and we are very excited to share this
journey with the public,” Ms. Tracy said. African penguins are
endangered in the wild, and the aviary’s penguins are part of an
important breeding program, the news release said.
Visitors will be able to see the baby penguins through a window to
the aviary’s nursery starting Thursday after they are examined by a
veterinarian. They will be hand-raised by nursery staff until they join
the rest of the penguin colony this summer. From Thursday until Jan. 3,
visitors can enter to win an up-close “baby penguin encounter.” Other
events involving the baby penguins will be added.
To see photos and
information, go to www.aviary.org/babypenguins.
The show follows host Chriss Knight as she guides viewers behind-the-scenes of Audubon Zoo, Aquarium, and Butterfly Garden and Insectarium. The web series gives viewers a backstage pass to meet the beloved animals and dedicated staff of Audubon Nature Institute.
Season 2 opens with an up-close-and-personal look at Audubon Zoo's
western lowland gorillas. Viewers will learn how trainers engage and
enrich the lives of these critically endangered animals and how Casey
the silverback gorilla has emotionally connected with the animal staff.
Later in the season, host Chriss Knight
helps Aquarium staff feed the sharks, dives in the Aquarium tunnel,
learns how to make a meal fit for a king out of bugs, takes a tour of
the new elephant barn, and sits-in on an Orangutan physical at
Audubon's Animal Hospital.
"As innovators in the zoo world, it is only natural for Audubon to
take the lead with this fresh and newly emerging format," said
President/CEO Ron Forman. "With online
video accounting for half of consumer internet traffic in 2012, we are
excited to pioneer new experiences for our visitors and celebrate the
wonders of nature with audiences throughout the world."
Audubon Nature Institute Audubon Nature
Institute operates a family of museums, parks and research facilities
dedicated to celebrating the wonders of nature. Through innovative live
animal exhibits, education programs, and scientific discovery, Audubon
makes a meaningful contribution to preserving wildlife for the future.
Audubon Nature Institute flagships include Audubon Park, Audubon Zoo,
Audubon Aquarium of the Americas, EntergyIMAX® Theatre, Audubon
Butterfly Garden and Insectarium, Audubon Center for the Research of
Endangered Species, Freeport-McMoRan Audubon Special Survival Center,
Woldenberg Riverfront Park and Audubon Wilderness Park. Ron Forman is President and CEO of Audubon Nature Institute.
A plea is being put out to beach-goers who find dead or sick penguins on the shore to keep them, in the name of research.
Mount Penguin Monitoring co-ordinator Dave Richards is
leading a study through Massey University into the survival of the
penguins after the October 2011 Rena disaster.
The study involves weekly monitoring of various penguin populations
around Mount Maunganui. Penguins involved in the Rena clean-up are
micro-chipped and monitored for size, health and breeding.
During the current breeding season, Dave says it’s common to find
dead penguins on the beach and he’s asking residents to contact the
group if one is spotted.
“We need to scan the birds, to see if they have any microchips in them – this is very important for the study.”
If a penguin is dead, Dave advises wrapping it in a plastic bag and
keeping it somewhere cool until they can pick it up. “You can freeze it
if you like.”
If the bird is alive, it should be wrapped in a towel or cloth, and put it in a box to keep it warm.
“Do not put the bird in water or your bath. It needs to be dry and warm; then please ring us to arrange a pick up.”
If you find a dead or sick penguin, phone or text 021 719 622.
Cassandra Bliss, right, gives a penguin named "Brown" an exam with
Cheryl Dykstra at John Ball Zoo in Grand Rapids Thursday, Dec. 19, 2013.
Brown, which is estimated to be 34-years-old, is the oldest known
Magellanic Penguin that is living in captivity in North America. Bliss
is a veterinarian and Diplomate of the American College of the
Veterinary Ophthalmology. Dykstra is the animal care supervisor for fish
and birds. (Cory Morse | MLive.com)
December 19, 2013
GRAND RAPIDS, MI -- As more than 30 Magellanic penguins underwent
physical exams Thursday at the John Ball Zoo, one of them received some
special care and attention. "Mrs. Brown," a penguin about 34 years of age, is thought to be the
oldest of the Magellanic breed living in captivity in North America. And
she calls Grand Rapids home.
Veterinarian Ryan Colburn and Veterinary Ophthalmologist Cassandra
Bliss examined Mrs. Brown in a separate area where she stays with
another penguin away from the others. The two are kept apart because of
their worsening arthritis, zoo staff say. Bliss examined Mrs. Brown's eyes Dec. 19 and said she believes the
eldest bird is likely completely blind in her left eye and partially
blind in the right one. Mrs. Brown is treated with great care. She holds
her own. She's earned her respect as a leader in the zoo's penguin flock.
Mrs. Brown was a wild-caught penguin — one of about five now at the
zoo — who came to Grand Rapids in 1983. She was already an adult at that
point, 30 years ago. She found another male penguin at the zoo who became her mate. He was
fondly known as "Mr. Brown," Animal Care Supervisor Cheryl Dykstra
The two had a son, Leroy Brown, before Mr. Brown died a few years ago. Since then, Mrs. Brown has lived a pretty private life at the zoo,
Dykstra said. She's held true to the idea that penguins typically live a
The older penguins tend to take charge of the younger ones in the
zoo's group, Dykstra said. But when it comes to live food, minnows,
given as food on occasion, the younger birds get more than their share.
It's the older ones that step — waddle — back, Dykstra said, and likely think to themselves, "Why should we do it?"
They're smart enough to realize they can get their fish hand-fed, she said.
December 19, 2013Updated: December 19, 2013 | 9:10 pm
Adjust Text Size
By Bryan Weismiller
With its penguin colony still at
threat of a deadly disease outbreak, the Calgary Zoo has flown in an
expert from Scotland to check things out. Dr. Romain Pizzi, an expert at the society that runs the Edinburgh
Zoo (home to 70 Gentoo penguins), was scheduled to land here Thursday. While keen to recognize his own staff, Dr. Jake Veasey suggested it
was prudent to get an outsider’s take following a spate of post-flood
“If there’s any tiny insight, any tiny tricks that he has we
definitely want to make sure that we don’t miss out on those,” said
Veasey, the Calgary Zoo’s director of animal care, conservation and
Five penguins have died since June’s historic flood: Three likely due
to avian malaria and two from a disease called aspergillosis. In
contrast, two birds perished in the 21-month period before the flood. Zoo officials point to a 7,300-per cent spike in fungal spores
recorded outside the building at the riverside animal park in the wake
of the flooding as the chief cause.
Veasey believes the zoo has since “turned the corner” and reported no birds are currently in the “immediate danger zone.” Still, officials are looking for bacterial flare-ups that could be fatal. “We can’t say that we’ll ever eradicate this as a problem in our colony,” he said. “It’s always going to be there.”
Dr. Cassandra Bliss gives a penguin an exam at John Ball Zoo in Grand
Rapids Thursday, Dec. 19, 2013. Bliss is a veterinarian and Diplomate of
the American College of the Veterinary Ophthalmology. (Cory Morse |
A penguin is pictured before it received an exam at John Ball Zoo in
Grand Rapids Thursday, Dec. 19, 2013. (Cory Morse | MLive.com)
Penguins wait to receive exams at John Ball Zoo in Grand Rapids Thursday, Dec. 19, 2013. (Cory Morse | MLive.com)
A penguin receives an exam at John Ball Zoo in Grand Rapids Thursday, Dec. 19, 2013. (Cory Morse | MLive.com)
Zookeeper David Blaszkiewicz holds a penguin near veterinarian tech
Heather Teater during an exam for the penguin at John Ball Zoo in Grand
Rapids Thursday, Dec. 19, 2013. (Cory Morse | MLive.com)
Zookeeper Paul Suplinskas holds a penguin during an exam at John Ball
Zoo in Grand Rapids Thursday, Dec. 19, 2013. (Cory Morse | MLive.com)
Dr. Cassandra Bliss, left, gives a penguin an exam with zookeeper Paul
Suplinskas at John Ball Zoo in Grand Rapids Thursday, Dec. 19, 2013.
Bliss is a veterinarian and Diplomate of the American College of the
Veterinary Ophthalmology. (Cory Morse | MLive.com)
Dr. Cassandra Bliss takes a picture of a penguin during an exam at John
Ball Zoo in Grand Rapids Thursday, Dec. 19, 2013. Bliss is a
veterinarian and Diplomate of the American College of the Veterinary
Ophthalmology. (Cory Morse | MLive.com)
Penguins wait to receive an exam at John Ball Zoo in Grand Rapids Thursday, Dec. 19, 2013. (Cory Morse | MLive.com)
December 19, 2013
John Ball Zoo penguins receive eye examsVeterinary
ophthalmologist Cassandra Bliss and John Ball Zoo veterinarian Ryan
Colburn talk about penguin exams at the zoo Thursday, Dec. 19, 2013.
(Cory Morse | MLive.com)
GRAND RAPIDS, MI -- Thirty-plus Magellanic penguins who underwent
physical exams Thursday at the John Ball Zoo could be compared to
children in some ways — apprehensive, likely wishing they were anywhere
There were strange needles taking blood for samples, shining lights and hands poking and prodding. There were flapping wings instead of tears, but squirms all the same. A visit with the doctor can be nerve-wracking stuff.
The John Ball Zoo staff were ready Thursday Dec.19, as they carefully
drained all the water from the penguins’ giant tank in the aquarium
exhibit, as is done once each year after the zoo closes for the winter. The penguins gathered in one corner, apparently seeking comfort from
one another as they peered into the glass of a nearby fish tank,
awaiting their procedure.
Watching the fish swim back and forth seemed to captivate their
attention almost like a child in front of a waiting room TV screen. One by one, the penguins were snatched up for their chance under the professionals’ watchful eyes. “It’s a full physical exam from head to toe,” Zoo Veterinarian Ryan
Colburn said as he prepared for a morning of recording data on each of
the birds. “It’s a big chore for us here at the zoo.”
Colburn used a stethoscope to listen to heart rhythms and check
breathing patterns for any respiratory problems. He carefully swiped a
wand-style metal detector over each penguin to check for anything they
may have swallowed over the past year. Ingesting a simple penny, thrown
over the side of the tank by a visitor, can be fatal for a penguin if
the situation isn’t caught, Colburn explained.
Nearby, other staff stepped up with syringes to get blood samples for
testing as zookeepers carefully held on, attempting to keep the
squirming to a minimum. The penguins were harnessed and lifted into the air as a scale measured their hanging weight.
Cassandra Bliss, a veterinary ophthalmologist visiting from BluePearl
Veterinary Partners, shined lights into the birds’ eyes, carefully
looking for any signs of trouble. Within a minute or two — even while working around the flapping wings
— Bliss could detect signs of cataracts. She called out her assessment
to a nearby technician who recorded the information.
Bliss explained how the penguins’ corneas are flat, enabling them to
adapt to their environment — be it vision underwater or on dry land. Birds kept in captivity generally live longer because of the natural
dangers they sidestep by not braving dangers in the wild, said Cheryl
Dykstra, the zoo’s animal care supervisor for birds and fish.
As the penguins age, checking for health problems is even more
important. Staff discuss changes in diet or other controlled variables
that may continually improve sight or quality of health, she said.
Zookeeper David Blaszkiewicz didn’t hesitate as he reflected back on
years of completing the physicals. Staff have the procedures down and
can complete them within a few hours, in the penguins’ natural habitat
to minimize stress and keep them comfortable. But it’s always an adventure. “Some of them really fight you beak and nail,” Blaszkiewicz said.
He compared the solid flippers to baseball bats, swinging back and
forth. Even with a welding glove on, Blaszkiewicz has suffered his share
of scratches and bruises during the examinations. Those marks come with
the job. “They can swing those flippers incredibly hard,” Blaszkiewicz said.
The Penguin Camera is located on Torgersen Island (64°46’S, 64°04’W), off the coast of Anvers Island and less than a mile from Palmer Station. Torgersen Island is home to a colony of Adélie penguins numbering approximately 2,500. This camera is seasonal and operates primarily from October to February, the Adélie breeding season. The camera is solar-powered and may sometimes experience brief outages due to inclement weather. School classrooms and other educational demonstrations will often take control of the camera, moving it to gain better views of the colony.
A lifelong student and confirmed polymath, I am currently writing my 2nd book this spring. I have an AS in Biology, a BA and an MA in English, plus I began a degree in Geology while living in CA. I am a retired herpetologist, but my blogs and current interests strive to promote animal conservation, particularly Penguins,Wolves, and Big Cats. I live with the loves of my life, Sissy, a Chihuahua, and Joey, Alero, Jillian, Loki, Jadin, Perse, Socks and Siggy - my ThunderCats - who help me cope with narcolepsy.