Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Penguins of the Day

Little blue penguin back at sea after hospital stint

The little blue penguin wades into the sea for the first time in eight weeks.

Rangitikei MP Ian McKelvie farewells the little blue penguin at Himatangi Beach.
With him is Wildbase veterinarian Dr Kerri Morgan and Manawatu Standard
newspaper photographer Warwick Smith.

Wildbase Recovery Community Trust ambassador and Rangitikei MP Ian McKelvie joined Massey University veterinary staff to release a little blue penguin back into the sea at Himatangi Beach this morning.

The penguin spent the past two months recovering at the university's Wildbase Hospital after being found starved and emaciated on a beach at Whanganui and receiving initial first aid from wildlife rehabilitator Dawne Morton of Wanganui Bird Rescue.

Today it was driven out to the coast and carried about 800m down the beach, where Mr McKelvie and wildlife technician Deneka De Sousa freed it.

The little blue penguin flopped over a few times as its legs appeared to buckle, briefly turned in the wrong direction away from the water and had to be picked up and turned around before it got its bearings. In less than a minute, it waded in and started swimming, bobbing through the waves to spend its first day at sea in eight weeks.

Mr McKelvie, a Massey graduate and popular Mayor of the Manawatu District for nearly a decade until 2011, when he entered Parliament, was clearly moved.

“The little blue penguin’s release was the most exciting thing I’ve done since my time in the public eye,” he said.

The bird's recovery involved involved regaining weight, waterproofing itself and practising swimming.

In future, much of that recovery period will occur in the public eye. Fundraising has started to build a unique facility in Palmerston North's Victoria Esplanade that will allow people to see rare native wildlife before they are returned to forests, beaches and wetlands.

The charitable trust has been set up solely to raise funds to build and operate a wildlife recovery centre thate will be owned by the Palmerston North City Council and co-managed by Massey University’s veterinary school. It is expected to attract 100,000 visitors a year including school trips and tourists.

The little blue penguin released today weighed a healthy 900g after being just 543g when found. Wildbase veterinarian Dr Kerri Morgan says whenever possible wildlife are returned to the same location they were found.

"But there are no known local little blue penguin colonies at Whanganui, so we suspect she may have been a bit off course. We’ve erred on the side of caution and decided to release her at Himatangi, where there is an existing population."

Little blue penguins are the world’s smallest, standing at 25cm. While found throughout New Zealand, they come ashore only at night to live in underground burrows, which means they are rarely seen. Their population has been declining, and their status is "near threatened". The biggest threat to their survival is predators such as unleashed dogs.


Death of a little penguin at Manly Cove to be investigated by Taronga Wildlife Hospital

A little penguin. Picture: News Corp
A little penguin. Picture: News Corp
The cause of death of a little penguin washed up at Manly Cove is yet to be determined.
Manly resident Angela Van Boxtel said she found the dead penguin on Saturday morning.
“It was so sad because just earlier, I had been at the wharf watching a little penguin swimming around,” Ms Van Boxtel said.
A little penguin. Picture: News Corp
A little penguin. Picture: News Corp
“This little penguin was not shy — normally they look out from under the wharf and then hide again but this one was swimming all the way out to the nets catching little waves. He was very beautiful to see.
“I’m worried this dead penguin was the same one.
“When I spoke to the penguin wardens, they were concerned it could be part of a breeding pair.”
Ms Van Boxtel handed the penguin over to Manly Sea Life Sanctuary and it had no obvious injuries.
“My concern is that it swallowed a piece of plastic,” she said.
“There’s more and more plastic in Manly every year. It’s on the sand and floating in the water, it's disgusting.”
A Manly Sea Life Sanctuary spokeswoman confirmed the little penguin was brought in to the sanctuary.
“The little penguin was then transferred to Taronga Wildlife Hospital where a necropsy will be performed. The results will be released by National Parks.”


Little Blue Penguin takes tentative steps (Video)


Little blue penguin takes recovers enough to head back to sea after hospital stint.

After being nursed back to health by wildlife experts, a little blue penguin seemed to be of two minds about being released back into the wild.

Wildbase Hospital staff freed the female bird, which was found starving on Wanganui Beach two months ago, on Manawatu’s Himatangi Beach today.

Reluctant to leave its carrier and then the company of assembled staff, with a little nudging the penguin finally took to the waters of the beach, which has an established little blue penguin population.

Wildbase veterinarian Kerri Morgan said the bird was lucky to be alive when found.

“While blood tests, X-rays and samples indicated there was nothing medically wrong, it was starved and emaciated, weighing a mere 543 grams.”

Daily feeds of salmon were key to getting the penguin back up to a healthy weight of 900g, after staff slowly re-introduced food, Morgan said.

On top of such a luxury diet, the penguin also had its own private pool at the Palmerston North centre to work on waterproofing its coat and testing its fitness.

Normally animals are returned to the same location they were found at, Morgan said.

“But there are no known local little blue penguin colonies at Wanganui, so we suspect she may have been a bit off course. We’ve erred on the side of caution and decided to release her at Himatangi.”
It was hoped with the bird’s early-morning release it would find “friends” and a place to sleep - though possibly not of the standard which it had become accustomed to - before nightfall.


Monday, September 29, 2014

Sunday, September 28, 2014

This Week's Pencognito!

Please visit Jen and all the pengies by clicking this link!

Penguin of the Day (New Plumes)

Cambiando plumaje

Humboldt Penguin getting all new feathers this week!

Maryland Zoo Debuts New Penguin Coast Exhibit

Gigi Barnett
BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Penguin penthouse. One of the nation’s largest penguin habitats opens up in Baltimore this weekend.

As Gigi Barnett explains, the new 1.5 acre exhibit works right into the zoo’s plan to grow its colony.
The move to their new digs is done. This weekend, the Maryland Zoo in Baltimore opened the nation’s largest outdoor African penguin habitat in North America. It’s called Penguin Coast and it’s nothing like the old exhibit. “It’s super cool. I think it’s better than the old one,” said zoo visitor Rachel Johnson. “This draws me to the penguins versus the other one, which I’m like, ‘Eh. We’re passing the penguins, that’s OK. Not a big deal,'” said zoo visitor Lori Widney.

Modeled after the South African coast, dozens of black-footed penguins have more than 1,900 square feet to bask in the sun and soak up the simulated seas. “I really like it. I like the whirlpools and stuff,” said zoo visitor Matthew Walker.

The 360 panoramic pool allows penguins to swim nonstop, giving guests an all-around view. When the water comes down, it creates currents. Visitors can also stand under a 1,000 gallon waterfall in the education center. It’s designed to show underwater life up close. “We liked going underneath to see them swimming under the water. That’s really cool,” said zoo visitor Nicole Johnson.

With the larger exhibit, now the zoo can grow its penguin colony from 58 birds to more than 100. “Here at the Maryland Zoo, we have always bred more penguins than anybody else in the country. We’re very good at it,” said zoo spokesperson Amy Eveleth. It’s a lesson in a penguin’s life and movements–it must mean they’re right at home.

Penguin Coast cost $11.5 million and took a little more than a year to build.


Candling penguin eggs (Video)

The little blue penguin chicks paired up in the summer of 2014 and laid eggs behind the scenes. Candling is how the penguin biologists check on the growing chick inside. The light yellow eggs show the embryo is very small. The last egg is very dark with a big chick inside!

20,000 Penguins Saved: Inside The World's Biggest Animal Rescue

By Melissa Cronin
In the summer of 2000, a 17-year-old ship on its way from China to Brazil was squeezing between two islands off the coast of South Africa. Out of nowhere, a hole formed in the massive hull of the MV Treasure, which was carrying 140,000 tons of iron ore on board. It wasn’t long before the ship drifted eastward and then, rocking in the tempestuous surf, sank to the bottom, its 1,300 tons of fuel oil ballooning above it as it fell.

While all the members of the vessel’s crew were airlifted to safety, the oil spill threatened to take thousands of other casualties: the penguins of the two islands it had been passing. Robben and Dassen Islands are home to the largest and third largest populations of African penguins in the world, and provide vital breeding grounds for the endangered species.
Soon enough, a wall of oil came crashing over the penguins. Birds began to wash up on beaches, soaked with oil, many of them dead or dying. 20,000 African penguins were oiled, and another 20,000 clean penguins were at risk as the oil moved toward their habitat.

(Les Underhill)

Dyan deNapoli, a penguin expert and scientist known as the “Penguin Lady” spoke about the rescue to an audience at a presentation at Hunter College in New York this week. “It was the largest animal rescue that had ever been attempted,” she said. “We didn’t even know if it would be possible to save this many birds.”

An army of 12,500 volunteers flooded the small town where the penguins were being kept. In a matter of days, they’d filled a local rescue center, the Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds (SANCCOB) with penguins, and quickly ran out of space. They turned to an abandoned train repair warehouse, which became the de-facto penguin rescue center.

WashingPenguinTreasure.png(Tony van Dalsen)

At first, things looked grim, deNapoli told The Dodo. “Penguins are extremely vocal birds, and when we first entered the enormous warehouse in Cape Town where most of the 19,000 oiled penguins were being housed, I expected to be met with a cacophony of braying and honking and squawking,” she said. “But, instead, it was eerily silent. There were hundreds of round holding pens in the building, each one with up to 125 oil-soaked penguins in it. The penguins were standing statue still and shoulder-to-shoulder in the holding pens. They weren't fighting or harassing each other the way they normally would in such tight confines, so it was immediately clear that these birds were traumatized and in a state of shock.”

Volunteers had to force-feed the wild birds initially, but soon, the birds learned to eat dead fish from their hands (deNapoli noted that this is a testament to their ability to quickly learn).(Tony van Dalsen)

SaltRiverOutside.png(Tony van Dalsen)

The resources required to handle the oiled birds were staggering — they needed 400 tons of fish (donated from local fisheries), 302 6-gallon containers of detergent and 7,000 tons of sand for the birds to stand on. Local hotels offered discounted rates to volunteers, and the Red Cross provided food and medical assistance.

SaltRiverRescueCentre.png(Dyan deNapoli)

Not only did they clean birds, they evacuated at-risk birds and collected the chicks that had been abandoned by oiled birds.

TreasureChickOnLap.png(Tony van Dalsen)

All in all, the rescuers saved 95 percent of the penguins threatened by the spill — a number that’s unheard of in the world of wildlife rescues after oil spills. They released the birds with temporary identification (hot pink chest marks) and permanent arm bands so that they could track their health — and so far, the penguins who survived the spill have lived nearly as long as those who were unaffected by it.

Treasure release Tony Van Dalsen.png(Tony van Dalsen)

DeNapoli gave a TEDx talk about the rescue, which still holds the record for the largest and most successful animal rescue in history.

Though these penguins were saved from the oil surge in 2000, they’re not in the clear. Penguins face threats from overfishing, entrapment in fishing nets, climate change and, of course, oil spills. Even more importantly, penguins are considered an “indicator species” — a measure of the overall ecosystem health. “We have lost up to 90 percent of most penguin populations over the last 50 years,” deNapoli said. “Essentially, penguins are the canaries in the coal mine for ocean health.”

See SANCCOB for more information on how to help threatened and endangered penguin populations or read deNapoli’s book all about the Treasure oil spill penguin rescue.


Saturday, September 27, 2014

Penguins of the Day

Southern Rockhopper Penguins 
(Hi-ho, hi-ho...)

Worst Penguin Joke EVER



Penguin sees dog's tail and goes after it! 

Friday, September 26, 2014

Penguins of the Day

Gentoo penguins, Stromness 
Gentoo penguins... and yes, it's that time of the year again... get ready, because they're already showing up at the rookery!

Gentoo penguin, St Andrews Bay. Recreating Ursual Andress in Dr No

Gentoo penguins, Stromness

PBS Shows Spy in the Huddle - Check local listings

Credit: Philip Dalton

Smile, You’re on Candid Camera: Penguin Edition

In a new PBS Nature series, filmmakers disguise cameras, tricking real penguins for the sake of never-before-seen footage.

By Emma Bryce
Published: 09/24/2014
Want to trick a penguin into letting you film its most intimate moments? Hide your camera in a fake penguin egg…or even a fake penguin.

That’s how filmmakers captured never-before-seen moments of the sea dwellers lives in Penguins: Spy in the Huddle, A Nature Special Presentation, PBS Nature’s new documentary airing September 24. The three-part series follows Humboldts in Peru’s Atacama Desert, rockhoppers in the Falklands, and emperors in Antarctica. Over the course of a year, filmmakers deployed 50 robotic cameras, some shaped like eggs, rocks, or ice, and others built to look, walk, swim and even interact like the penguins. With these special investigators, the team was able to capture the lifecycle across all three colonies: breeding, birth, and each new generation’s move towards independence and the sea.
Audubon spoke to documentary producer John Downer about the never-before-seen footage the series presents—and what happens when birds steal, destroy, and try to copulate with your hidden cameras.

Audubon: What can the spy cams accomplish that normal cameras can’t?

John Downer: I think the big turning point on Penguins was the idea that spy cameras can actually become the animals. They’re more like spy creatures than spy cameras, and the animals accepted the devices in their midst.
So as well as capturing incredible, intimate imagery, because they were accepted so well into the colony the birds also started to interact with them. Hardly anything happened in any of the colonies that wasn’t filmed. It gives real insight into what it’s like to be a penguin.

A: Were the birds ever suspicious of these imposters?

JD: They were always curious because though it was a penguin, it was not quite a penguin that they knew. So the tendency was for them to cluster around it, and have a look. Sometimes you’d get these moments when they really did think it was a penguin and get quite attached to it. But most of the time, the cam is there as an observer.

A emperor cam hangs out amongst the penguins. Credit: Frederique Olivier
A: How were you able to make the spy cams behave in a life-like way?

JD: Their movements were programmable on a computer, and there was a set repertoire of penguin behavior. Actually within one of the scenes, a male penguin takes a fancy to one of our penguin cams, and part of the reason was that its movements were replicating the same movements you’d expect to get in courtship. And uh, the result was a little bit unexpected: the male penguin’s mate returned and beat up our penguin! You can’t write that into script, it just happens, and it’s a moment of comedy and magic.

A: Which were your most successful cams?

JD: I think the egg cams were the surprise because they were the simplest of all. But because of the number we put out, the perspective they gave, and the fact that they were recording all the time, we have stories that were captured with them when no one was there. For instance, there was an invasion by king cormorants into the rockhoppers’ colony, and they created havoc. We didn’t even know that had happened until we were going through the footage and saw this little drama unfold. One of the other big surprises for us was what a revelation it was having a swimming rockhopper penguin cam going underwater in the Falklands.

A: Did you lose any of your spies?

JD: You have to be prepared to lose a camera. They are at the sharp end of everything; you put them where you wouldn’t put a person. A lot were taken out to sea and dropped—and that’s just what happens.

A: Did you encounter any thieves amongst the penguins? 

JD: If they’d lost their own egg or a chick, or failed to breed, then the egg cams became quite attractive to birds, so they would take them into the nest. This wouldn’t last long as they’d soon get the idea—but it did create some extraordinary imagery of what it’s like to be a chick.

A: Did you manage to capture anything that had never been witnessed before?

JD: With the emperor penguins, it was the actual moment of laying the egg. Of course they haven’t got a nest, so they have to catch the egg on their tails. The tail slips under, captures it, and stops it dropping onto the cold ice. A few moments of contact would destroy this egg that they’ve spent a year’s investment on. That was captured for the first time, and I was astounded to see it.
In another scene one of the emperor penguins had lost a chick in the cold blizzards—the weather was unbelievably severe—and went to try and revive this frozen chick. I think it’s probably the most touching scene. To see the penguins, if you put into human terms, mourning over this chick, was unbelievably emotional.

A: So what’s to become of the ‘spies’?

JD: I’ve got two looking at me now! Some others have gone on tour; there are various public engagements that they have, because they’re so popular. In the future, we may even use them in another mission.


Talking Penguin Litter Bins-Now there's an idea worth expanding

September 24, 2014

  • Bridgeshire's greener Pal-Foot pallet.
  • Amberol Ltd, of Alfreton, produced the world's first singing bins in the form of Percy Penguin, which were installed on the streets of Liverpool and they are a huge success! Getting rid of litter has never been more popular!


Mystery penguin tags popping up in Ocean Beach

Sept 24, 2014
SAN DIEGO - Residents in Ocean Beach want to know who is behind mysterious penguins that have been popping up around town. Whoever is responsible uses a stencil to paint the penguins as fast as they can in public places. 10News reporter Robert Santos found out that as harmless as the tags look, not everyone is happy with them.

In Ocean Beach, it is clear people love art. It is everywhere: on utility boxes, on the sides of buildings and even on trash cans. But those are legal.  There is one painting – or technically graffiti – that has been popping up around Ocean Beach unauthorized. It shows a stenciled penguin with a heart. "It was right here," said Ocean Beach Elementary Principal Marco Drapeau as he showed 10News where parents first spotted the penguin. He had his workers cover up the tag right away but not before a resident snapped a photo of it and sent it in to the local newspaper, the "OB Rag," asking, "What's up with all the penguin stencils around Ocean Beach?" "We had this brand new paint job so it stuck out pretty quickly," said Drapeau.
Jeff Rathause, the owner of the Second Chance Sport shop, says his store was tagged with the penguin as well. "When I pulled up to work, I said, 'There's another thing there,'" said Rathause.
The penguin was painted next to a peace sign that another vandal tagged years ago on the roof of his shop. "Nobody knows what it (the penguin) means. Didn't seem too mean or anything, so I left it up," added Rathause.

10News found another penguin stenciled near the skate park on the sidewalk and on the freeway ramp off Interstate 8. They are nowhere near as elaborate as the satirical street art of guerilla graffiti artist Banksy, who is known worldwide. Wikipedia describes Banksy's tags as "anti-war, anti-capitalist or anti-establishment. Subjects often include rats, apes, policemen, soldiers, children and the elderly."

The penguin graffiti is not as destructive as the damage caused by two vandals who etched more than 90 windows in Ocean Beach, causing tens of thousands of dollars in damages. Still, when 10News showed the penguins to the Ocean Beach Main Street Association, they had one message to this latest mystery vandal. "We don't appreciate tagging. Period," said Denny Knox.

If caught, graffiti vandals in San Diego can be fined and send to jail or juvenile hall. If they are minors, parents can be held responsible for up to $25,000 worth of damage.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Penguin power in Mystic

MYSTIC, Conn. (WTNH) — A Mystic Aquarium penguin was hard at work Monday preparing for the 8th annual Run Walk for Penguins at Mystic Aquarium.

(WTNH / Tina Detelj)
While he wasn’t hard at work getting in shape for the October 18th race, he was walking with painted feet over tiles which will be given out as awards.

We caught up with the tuxedo clad bird at Get Fired Up’ in Pawcatuck where he helped make forty small tiles and 22 large tiles for the fundraiser, which benefits the endangered African penguin.

He also lent his footprints to a plate which will be given to the trainer whose penguin wins their own race that day.


                                                                                 (WTNH / Tina Detelj)

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Monday, September 22, 2014

Penguin of the Day

Black-footed penguinAfrican Penguin juvenile

Maryland Zoo Closed To Prepare New Penguin Exhibit

ZOO Penguin

BALTIMORE (AP) — The Maryland Zoo in Baltimore is closed this week as it prepares for the grand opening of a major new exhibit focusing on African black-footed penguins and other renovated exhibits.

The new exhibit, “Penguin Coast,” will open Sept. 27, when the zoo reopens. The zoo will be closed Monday through Friday for final preparations.

The zoo says the penguin exhibit will bring guests up close to the birds in a recreation of their natural habitat along South Africa’s coasts. It includes a large pool and underwater viewing area surrounding an indoor conservation center, which will house the birds’ nests. It could eventually house up to 100 birds.

The zoo is also reopening its “Marsh Aviary in the Maryland Wilderness” exhibit and will return its flock of flamingos to public view.


Saturday, September 20, 2014

Penguin of the Day

African penguins at Boulder Beach, South AfricaI can fly! I can fly!

Penguin deaths prompt call for action

Updated at 5:38 am today

A recent spate of penguin deaths on the fringe of Abel Tasman National Park has led to a campaign to protect them from domestic dogs.
A blue penguin in a nesting box close to penguin colony in Oamaru, New Zealand.
A blue penguin in a nesting box - the boxes, and training for dogs, are among possible protection measures. Photo: PHOTO NZ

At least eight blue penguins were killed in suspected dog attacks near Little Kaiteriteri earlier this month.
The local community has now stepped up its efforts to look after the protected species and the Department of Conservation's Motueka ranger, Al Check, said a range of initiatives was in place.
"Penguin nesting boxes, and we're just looking at putting some more signs and things in there. We have a local lady who we've trained up to deliver penguin aversion training, so that's slightly different than our standard kiwi and weka."
Mr Check said owners needed to take responsibilty for their pets' actions and do all they could to look after wildlife.
Under the Dog Control Act 1996, the owner of any dog that attacks protected wildlife is liable on conviction to a hefty fine or even imprisonment.


Little penguins under threat from proposed Mangles Bay marina development

Little Penguins  
Photo: Dr Cannell believes the Little Penguins are under threat from the new marina.
The proposed Mangles Bay marina development, south of Perth, could further erode the little penguins' habitats, an expert says.
Dr Belinda Cannell of Murdoch University has been studying the little penguin colonies on Garden and Penguin Islands, off the coast of Rockingham, for 20 years.
The conservation biologist believes the planned marina, which would accommodate up to 500 boat pens and a residential and tourism development, could further impact the penguins' home.
"We don't have penguin colonies any further north in WA than here," she said.
"They are also genetically distinct so this is a very important colony to maintain."
Dr Cannell believed the species was already struggling because the adult penguins were travelling further afield to find food, leaving their chicks for long periods.
"They are doing some amazingly long trips," she said.
"One [penguin went] to Margaret River, who was away for 14, 15 days."
Dr Cannell has been monitoring the penguins' movements using GPS tracking devices as part of a three-year research program.
She cites cases where chicks in nests on Penguin Island have died of starvation while their parents travel well beyond their traditional foraging grounds.
Increased sea surface temperatures linked to strong La Nina conditions in 2011 were thought to be the cause for a decline in the stocks of fish that the penguins feed on.

Little penguins under threat from boats and jet-skis

Dr Cannell said she is also concerned about the number of penguins being hit by boats and jet-skis.
"We often find birds that have got propeller cuts along their backs, birds with broken bones, broken skulls and fractured necks," she said.
Dr Cannell was concerned the new Mangles Bay marina being developed by Cedar Woods Properties Ltd, which was approved by the Environmental Protection Authority earlier this year, will increase boat traffic.
In an appeal against the EPA's decision, Dr Cannell called for the development not to be approved "to ensure the protection of the little penguin population on Garden Island".
She said the abundance of fish that the penguins feed on, is likely to be affected by the seagrass lost during construction.
"I've been looking at foraging habitat for these penguins since 2007 and those areas are so important for those penguins," she said.
"That area, the southern half of Cockburn Sound, is used exclusively by the little penguins on Garden Island while they are raising their chicks so it's a very important area for these penguins."
The development is currently before Federal Environment Minister Greg Hunt for approval.
Cedar Woods Properties Ltd managing director Paul Sadleir said it would be operating under strict conditions set down by the EPA.
"There will be marine fauna observers there to inspect the construction site before we start," he said.
"The spoil from the dredging will be taken onshore so there won't be clouding and sediment all through the Sound."
Among other conditions, the proponents are also required to re-plant twice the area of seagrass lost during construction.
"I think it's also worth noting that the 5.6 hectares of sea grass that will be removed as part of the marina project is about point one of one per cent of the total southern part of Cockburn Sound," Mr Sadleir said.
However, Dr Cannell was unconvinced by the conditions and said not enough was known about the penguins' habitat to ensure it would not be affected by the development.
"Really these penguins are an indicator of how healthy the whole coastal eco system is and if they end up dying out, then that means our whole coastal eco system is dying as well," she said.


Baby Emperor Penguins Emerge from Their Shells (Video)

Get a sneak peak at the Maryland Zoo's new home for penguins

The Maryland Zoo in Baltimore is home to one of the largest colonies of African penguins in North America. Soon the zoo will be opening Penguin Coast, its new home for the birds. The exhibit will allow the number of endangered birds to double from its current number of 50.

Below is the first of 26 Photos 

Friday, September 19, 2014

Penguins of the Day

King Penguin 
Kings of the Sub-Antarctic; adult and chick

I might not be pretty yet but just wait

Life among the emperors

Person sits near penguin
Photo Credit: Scripps
Scientist Gerald Kooyman has been studying emperor penguins for more than 40 years.

Gerald Kooyman discusses his research on Antarctica's iconic wildlife

From making the first measurements of the diving depth of an emperor penguin in the 1960s to tracking colonies of Aptenodytes forsteri with satellites, Gerald Kooyman’s External Non-U.S. government site long career studying the physiology and populations of marine vertebrates has made him one of the world’s leading experts on Antarctica’s iconic seabird.

A professor emeritus at the University of California, San Diego’s Scripps Institute of Oceanography External Non-U.S. government site, Kooyman recently agreed to answer questions about his discoveries, current research and the possible fate of the emperor penguin in a rapidly changing world.

Person takes notes next to penguin.
Photo Courtesy: Gerald Kooyman
Kooyman takes notes at a gentoo penguin colony in 1972.
 1. You began your career in the Antarctic studying the diving physiology of Weddell seals, I believe. What got you interested in studying emperor penguins?
The first time I saw emps was early October of 1961, at Cape Royds, when three came blasting through thin ice. They walked the 100 meters or so from off shore and stood next to me in strong wind and bitter cold. From that day forward, I wanted to learn more about the bird, and over the years concurrent with the Weddell seal study, I did various short experiments until 1986 when I got serious on a full time schedule of working with emps.

2. You’ve been studying Antarctica’s iconic seabirds for more than four decades now. What are some of the most important things that you’ve learned about them?

The first determination of their diving depths to 265 meters in 1969; it was the first such measurement for any bird, and it remained a [depth] record by far until my 1986 study at Cape Washington.
The first remote camp site established on annual sea ice, which evolved into a series of studies that are still in progress.
Penguins gather around a hole.
Photo Credit: Henry Kaiser/Antarctic Photo Library
The isolated dive hole protocol in use at Penguin Ranch.
Penguins leap out of the water.
Photo Credit: Dr. Paul Ponganis/Antarctic Photo Library
Emperor penguins leap out of the water.
Penguins swim under water.
Photo Credit: Emily Stone/Antarctic Photo Library
Emperor penguins swim under dive holes at Penguin Ranch.
The discovery of Cape Washington emp colony – known since 1964, but with no idea that it was the second largest known colony, and it was an ideal place for many of our studies including the foraging behavior of the parents.
Application of the isolated dive hole protocol. First used for Weddell seals, and the determination that it would work for emps, as well for diving physiological studies, one of which was the determination of their aerobic diving limit.
The breeding population structure of all Ross Sea emp colonies, and that the chick fledging is an active process initiated by them, and they initiate the fledging while their body [is] still covered by 60 percent down.
Demonstration in 1998 that the Ross Sea colonies could be reached in winter by [research vessel], and while there that we noted recent tracks of birds coming and going to the water.

3. Emperors and other penguin species have been in the news recently. Some of the reports seem to give conflicting news about the status of the species’ overall health and their possible response to climate change. Some of your own recent work has suggested that emperor penguins are less loyal to their breeding colonies than previously believed, meaning they may be able to adjust to changing conditions if ice disappears. How do you see emperor penguins faring in the coming decades as the Antarctic climate continues to change, if current predictions hold true?
If the current trend continues then, like most of the planet, the outlook is bleak for all emps, but especially those at the lower latitudes. In those regions, sea ice decline will not only destabilize breeding colonies, but also the pack-ice where the birds will molt in the summer time. All individuals must molt, and the fast or pack-ice that they choose must last for 36 days. Any time less and they lack the water proofing to enter the minus 2 degrees Celsius water.

4. The study I referred to in the previous question had involved using satellites to track the movements of the animals, and you’ve been involved in other studies using remote sensing. How important do you think remote sensing will be in the future for research and conservation efforts?
Vital. There are places we cannot go for various reasons and the imagery from satellites can provide much information. The response time from request to acquiring an image is getting shorter, and the resolution is better. This will continue to improve as more demand for many tasks increases.

Large rock outcrop surrounded by ice.
Photo Credit: Paul Ponganis/Antarctic Photo Library
An aerial view of Cape Washington. The dark stains are actually emperor penguins.
Backs of two penguins.
Photo Credit: Rob Dunbar
Transmitters on the backs of emperor penguins. Research under Antarctic Conservation Act permit No. 2013-006.
Bow of ship in rough seas.
Photo Credit: Gerald Kooyman
Kooyman's latest expedition took him and his team to remote and rough areas of the Antarctic.
5. Your most recent fieldwork took you to remote Antarctic seas in 2013 at the age of 78 to study emperor penguins during a period when, as you said in your blog, “no one else has ever seen them: between molting and returning to the colony.” What is the significance of this research and what are you learning from the transmitters that you deployed on the animals?
I am not sure what my age has to do with it, but haven’t you heard that 70 is the new 40? When you stop exploring and learning, you are “dead in the water.”
The time period just before our study when the emps travel to the molt site and feed along the way, and that period of our study, just after molt, are the most critical to the adult birds. There is the risk of failure to feed adequately to get through the molt and later fatten enough to get through the long breeding fast. That said, all the attendant needs for a rich, clean ocean must be explored as well. Considering an earlier question, one of the great hopes for emps surviving the projected environmental degradation are for those in the Ross Sea, where sea ice is more likely to persist longer. If the Ross Sea is established as a marine protected area as [Friends of the Ross Sea Ecosystem] and other organizations lobby for, it will be the most important sanctuary for emps as well as many other species.

6. What else is lacking in our understanding of emperor penguins?
Trends in their populations. At present, all projections of emps are based on a single, small and relatively isolated colony in the eastern sector of the Antarctic. More needs to be done elsewhere in regard to population demographics, philopatry [the tendency to return to the same breeding colony] as discussed in our recent papers led by [Peter] Fretwell and [Michelle LaRue), and much about their physiology while diving, which has been led by [Paul] Ponganis. There is more, but these are two of my favorite things.

7. Was this expedition aboard the research vessel Nathaniel B. Palmer External U.S. government site fairly unique for you in terms of your previous experience doing fieldwork? What was the experience like?
I have made cruises on the [research vessel Nathaniel B. Palmer] in 1998 and 2000. Last year’s cruise was outstanding in all ways – the crew was excellent in their support and all were well qualified for cruising in such a remote area. Working with the research team led by Dennis Hansell was a fine experience in learning about their work and their help with ours.

Book cover.
Kooyman's book on penguins.
8. You published a book last year, Penguins (The Animal Answer Guides: Q&A for the Curious Naturalist). What was the impetus behind the book? 
The editor Vince Burke asked me to write the book, and I think the photographer Wayne Lynch may have suggested me. I accepted because of Wayne, who is one of the day’s best nature photographers, and he would supply the photographs. Also, I thought it would be an opportunity to broaden my perspective and knowledge about penguins in general.

9. What’s next for you in terms of your research pursuits? Any plans or proposals to return to the Ice and continue to work with emperor penguin populations in the Ross Sea?
Birgitte McDonald, one of the team members, and I have a pending proposal to return the eastern Ross Sea, as well as for some work in the western Ross Sea post-molt and breeding emps.