Saturday, January 31, 2015

#Penguins of the Day

Surfing Penguins 
Surfing Penguins by Peter Orr

#Penguins Pick Seahawks - Cincinnati Zoo Video

Mystic Aquarium transforms marine debris into energy

Joe Wojtas 
Mystic Aquarium, in partnership with Covanta, has unveiled a new interactive exhibit designed to educate visitors about how discarded marine debris can be turned into clean energy.

A large group of students from New London, Groton and Sprague were on hand for the opening of the Covanta Cove exhibit along with the first selectmen of Stonington, North Stonington, Waterford and Griswold, whose towns are part of the Southeastern Connecticut Resource Recovery Authority.
Covanta, a firm that operates waste-to-energy plants worldwide, runs the power plant in Preston.

After the ribbon-cutting ceremony, Stonington First Selectman George Crouse used a claw mechanism to pull a miniature lobster pot and piece of rope from the pond in the exhibit and deposit it in a recycling container. That set off lights in a track that leads to a power plant with a meter.

Electricity then went out through power lines to light up homes along the shore. The pond soon will be inhabited by local species of fish such as bluegills, pumpkinseeds, perch and shiners.

During Thursday’s ribbon cutting, Katie Cubina, the aquarium’s senior vice president for mission programs, said the exhibit and partnership with Covanta ties in with the aquarium’s mission to protect the world’s oceans.

Andy Wood, the aquarium’s senior vice president of external affairs, added that the aquarium hopes the exhibit will “raise awareness and spur action.”

Paul Gilman, Covanta’s senior vice president and chief sustainability officer, said the firm has been approached about the marine debris problem and came up with the idea to turn it into energy.

He said this not only helps fishermen get rid of unwanted equipment but helps communities stop plastic from getting into the ocean. “We couldn’t have a better partner than Mystic Aquarium to reach out with and do this type of education,” he said.

Covanta Cove is the aquarium’s latest effort to raise awareness about the problem of marine debris. Washed Ashore, an exhibit of large sculptures made from marine debris, has been on display since late last year


Friday, January 30, 2015

#Penguins of the Day

The emperor penguin is endemic to Antarctica. It is the tallest and heaviest of all living penguin species. Above: Mariners from the icebreaker "Ob" taking photos of penguins.

About 45–50 days after hatching, the chicks of the emperor penguin form a crèche, huddling together for warmth and protection. A crèche may comprise up to several thousand birds densely packed together and is essential for surviving the low Antarctic temperatures. Above: Chicks of a colony of penguins are pictured July 1 2007 on Possession Island in the Crozet archipelago.

VIDEO: Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies #penguins predict Super Bowl winner

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

#Penguin of the Day

King Penguins 

King Penguins by Peter Orr

‘The Penguin Post Office,’ TV review

Going really south for the winter, 'Nature' spotlights the adorable and tenacious penguins at Antarctica's Port Lockroy Post Office 

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

A Gentoo family gets a group picture at Port Lockroy.
                        Ruth Peacey
The U.S. Postal Service may be scrambling these days, but there’s at least one place in the world where snail mail is thriving: Port Lockroy, Antarctica, better known as Penguin Post Office.
Every winter, thousands of tourists hop cruise ships to Port Lockroy, a British colonial-era outpost whose year-round population is a thriving colony of Gentoo penguins.
The humans, including tourists and post office workers, all pack up and bail out by March, when the Antarctic winter rolls in. The penguins stick it out and, perhaps as a result, they see no reason to fear these dilettante visitors.
That makes Port Lockroy a wonderful spot for penguin fans, and for those who can’t get there, this PBS “Nature” special films pretty much the whole season.
That includes reel after reel of “irresistibly cute,” because you’d really need a heart of stone not to find penguins charming.
Contrary to their appearance, however, these p enguins do not live entirely whimsical lives.
They turn out to be quite a larcenous lot, systematically trying to steal the pebbles with which their fellow penguins build nests.
On a more serious note, and one to keep in mind if you might be tempted to have very small penguin-loving children watch this special, ”Nature” films a deadly assault on a penguin who apparently offended his neighbors.
“Nature” does that because nature is like that. In the end, it shouldn’t make anyone find penguins any less adorable.


Partake of some #penguins at Twycross Zoo

By Karen Hambridge

The events are inspired by Penguin Awareness Day marked on January 20 but the catalyst for a month-long education campaign

A penguin takes a dip in the pool.
A penguin takes a dip in the pool.
All things penguin are being celebrated at Twycross Zoo this month with the arrival of a special statue and fun-filled family activities. The events are inspired by Penguin Awareness Day marked on January 20 but the catalyst for a month-long education campaign. The zoo has a group of 19 Humboldt penguins which in the wild are classified as a vulnerable species.

Dr Charlotte Macdonald, director of life sciences at the village attraction, said: “Our penguins are very popular with visitors and they each have unique personalities which are fascinating to observe.
“Penguins are such an iconic species and as a zoo we have an important role to educate people about them and their conservation. Although they are hugely popular in adverts and children’s films, people often forget a lot of penguin species are threatened in the wild and we hope our penguin appreciation month will give people a better understanding of the species and the pressures they face.”

 Among the activities taking place are a penguin zoo trail and an obstacle course which visitors can tackle while protecting their own eggs. A statue of Monty, the penguin made famous by the John Lewis Christmas advert, will also be at the zoo for fans to have their photograph taken with him.
Penguin Parade takes place daily at 12.30pm and 3.30pm when the zoo’s education rangers give talks to visitors while the birds are fed.

The penguins will also receive enrichment activities each weekend such as exploring a bubble machine in penguin lagoon. Humboldt penguins live in coastal Chile and Peru in South America.
The zoo’s penguins all have names inspired by the sea including Coral, Shrimp and Fin, and they can be identified by their individual colour coded arm bands.


Picky #Penguins Aren’t Surviving the Antarctic Warm-Up

Forget about a polar bear stranded on the ice float, the new mascot for global warming could be a penguin turning up its beak at a diverse diet.
The gentoo penguin’s (left) adventurous eating habits are likely why it’s adapting better to a warmer environment than the picky chinstrap penguin (right). (Photo: Rachael Herman/LSU)
The Gentoo penguin’s (left) adventurous eating habits are likely why it’s adapting better to a warmer environment than the picky Chinstrap penguin (right). (Photo: Rachael Herman/LSU)
If you were the type of kid to pout over a plate of broccoli, you might remember your parents saying something like, “If you’re not going to eat this, you’ll starve.” While that was (hopefully) an empty threat, scientists are finding that it mirrors the unfortunate reality for at least one species coping with climate change: chinstrap penguins.

Chinstrap penguins live on the Antarctic Peninsula alongside the closely related Gentoo penguins. In the last 50 years, average air temperatures in the region have increased by about five degrees Fahrenheit. That makes it the most rapidly warming region in the Southern Hemisphere, according to the British Antarctic Survey.

(In case you were wondering, chinstrap penguins do have the face markings from which they get their names. Gentoo penguins, on the other hand, have orange beaks. Both have the black backs and white stomachs that give them that signature tuxedo look.)

When closely related species live in the same ecosystem, they tend to specialize the type of food and resources that they use, so that there is less competition between species. But that happy co-existence comes with a tradeoff.

Despite similar habitats and diets, scientists have observed “dramatic declines” in the chinstrap penguin population in recent years. The gentoo penguin population, meanwhile, has expanded. A newly published study in Marine Ecology Progress Series, by lead author Michael Polito of Louisiana State University, explains the divergence.

When closely related species live in the same ecosystem, they tend to specialize the type of food and resources that they use, so that there is less competition between species. But that happy co-existence comes with a tradeoff, Polito and colleagues write: “Species with specialized habitat or dietary requirements are likely to be highly sensitive to environmental changes.”

From 2007 to 2011, Polito and his colleagues analyzed stomach and feather samples of a colony of penguins living on the Antarctic Peninsula, as well as the availability of their main prey, a shrimp-like crustacean that’s called krill. Krill rely on sea ice for protection and food, so when temperatures rise and ice melts, there are fewer krill in the ocean.

Researchers found that chinstraps were pickier penguins—they ate mostly krill—whereas Gentoos were more adventurous, adding various types of fish to the menu. Krill comprised nearly 100 percent of chinstrap diets (measured by wet mass of stomach contents), whereas they only accounted for 79 percent of Gentoo diets. 

Oddly enough, chinstraps actually forage further offshore than gentoos, in order to reach the krill swarms. “This and other studies indicate that their foraging choices may be a reflection of small-scale changes in prey availability,” Polito and colleagues write.

Call it a cautionary tale. As climate change rears its ugly head in many ways, some of our preferred food sources may disappear. We might all be eating organic crickets in 50 years, so start training your kids to appreciate exotic flavors now.

Shedd Aquarium Staffers Working To Save Endangered #Penguins in Africa

By David Matthews on January 27, 2015

 Shedd Aquarium employees are feeding abandoned penguin chicks like these on the coast of South Africa. 
Shedd Aquarium employees are feeding abandoned penguin chicks like these on the coast of South Africa.  

MUSEUM CAMPUS — Shedd Aquarium is aiding with the rescue of abandoned penguins along the coast of South Africa, again extending the Loop museum's reach beyond the shores of Lake Michigan.

Since December, the Shedd has been sending employees to the southern tip of Africa to care for penguin chicks left astray by molting season, or the time of year their penguin parents lose their feathers and are unable to hunt for food in the wild.

Dave Matthews says the trips abroad are a thrill for staff:

The aquarium believes it's a worthy cause. There are only 30,000 wild African penguins left in the world, down from millions in the 1970s after decades of oil spills and commercial fishing.The aquarium estimates the species will be extinct within 15 years if the status quo remains.

Partnering with the South African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds, the aquarium has sent some of its staff to the continent on a rotating basis, and will continue to do so through early February. One of those employees, Mike Pratt, recently returned to Chicago after spending a month in South Africa, where he tended to as many as 200 penguin chicks a day.

Check out this firsthand look at the penguin habitat in this video from South Africa:

"Just to watch the birds progress after they come in sick and starving and get healthier and healthier, it’s an amazing feeling," said Pratt, an animal care specialist at the Shedd.Pratt, who normally tends to animals at the Shedd, worked on a team that sorted the chicks by health and size and fed them. The chicks' diet is simple: fish and an electrolyte solution similar to Gatorade. Pratt said 40 chicks were successfully released again into the wild during his month on assignment.

It's not the first time the Shedd has joined the cause. The aquarium helped save 20,000 penguins affected by a South African oil spill in 2001, and has partnered with other groups to assist other wildlife including beluga whale calves in Canada and Alaska, and coral in Florida. In a statement, the aquarium said it has "responded to animals in need for over two decades."

Despite the efforts, one expert believes much more needs to be done to save African penguins from extinction. Dee Boersma, a professor of biology and chair of conservation science at the University of Washington, said penguin chicks that are fed and released again into the wild have the same long-term survival rate as those fledgling in the nest. A better solution, she said, would be enlarging the marine protected areas around penguin breeding islands and other habitats. "There's not enough food to support these penguins," Boersma said. "Bolstering chicks won’t get you very far, but if they didn’t bolster them, they’d all die. It’s a worthy effort but it’s not enough."


Monday, January 26, 2015

Calgary Zoo cancels #penguin walks as forecast predicts another mild day

Metro/Katie Turner Eight king penguins waddled their way around the Calgary Zoo during a past Penguin Walk.
January 26, 2015
By Staff

It seems the penguins can’t keep up with Calgary’s unseasonably warm spell.
After a warm weather weekend with tank tops and flip flops abound, Calgary is in for another few days of spring-like weather.
Along with the heat, the Calgary Zoo has cancelled penguin walks for the day after Environment Canada forecast a high of 15 C degrees.


#Penguin pinches elephant seal's behind after it strayed on to their bit of beach in Antarctica

By Daily Mail Reporter

When this elephant seal strayed on to their bit of the beach, these penguins weren't going to take it lying down. As a result, the young seal suffered a painful pinch on the behind as the gentoo penguins on Antarctica's South Shetland Islands saw off the intruder. Clearly, the peck to the bottom hurt as the seal titled its head back and cried out in visible pain.With space on the shoreline limited, such encounters are inevitable and the penguins appeared eager to lay claim to the pebbly beach.

The other penguins seemed rather unperturbed by the seal cry, with only one gazing up to witness the action.  The image was taken by professional wildlife and award-winning photographer Roy Mangersnes. Antarctica is accessible only between November and March.   

 This elephant seal was pecked on the bottom by a gentoo penguin on a pebbly beach in the Shetland Islands

Researching #Penguins: a tail of two stories

University grad student, coastal sciences professor research penguins in Antarctic Peninsula

University graduate student Rachael. All photos by Michael Polito

Posted: Sunday, January 25, 2015
While most species of penguins look similar, their abilities to adapt to change make them as different as black and white. Oceanography and coastal sciences professor Michael Polito and graduate student Rachael Herman embarked on a one-month journey to the Antarctic Peninsula in December to research how certain penguin species adapt to their environments. “The reason that we study penguins is because they are great scientific sampling devices,” Polito said.

In a study published in the Marine Ecology Progress Series on Tuesday, Polito’s team studied how certain penguin species’ eating habits — specifically Chinstrap and Gentoo penguins — expressed the effects of climate change and commercial fishing on Antarctic marine ecosystems. “The Antarctic Peninsula is one of the places that’s warming up faster than others,” Polito said. “This change in climate, combined with commercial fishing of krill — the primary source of food for penguins — affects the marine ecosystem.” The team found the number of Chinstrap penguins decreased, while the population of Gentoo penguins increased.

Polito concluded both species share similarities, such as the way they breed, but their differences in diet restrictions makes one penguin species more resilient than the other. Chinstrap penguins possess a stricter diet, eating krill, while Gentoo penguins eat fish and krill, which is why they are unaffected — if not benefitting from changes in their environment, Polito said.

With the initial conclusion reached, Polito enlisted Herman to travel to Antarctica in December 2014 and focus solely on Gentoo penguins. “Gentoo penguins eat a variety of different items, so they’re highly adaptive to change,” Herman said. “I’m trying to see if this adaptability is pertinent to all populations, or if each individual has its own diet.”

Herman will conduct her research by analyzing samples of feathers and blood to look at how their composition indicates the penguins’ eating habits. “What’s really cool about [the Antarctic] ecosystem is that there aren’t really any large predators, so all the penguins and seals, they don’t really have a fear of people,” Herman said. “You can literally sit in front of a penguin and watch them do what they do and they aren’t afraid of you or bothered by you. It’s like a National Geographic film, but right in front of you.”

Polito encourages University students who are interested in research to reach out to their professors and gain experience. Travel opportunities can come to any student who is interested and enthusiastic, Polito said.

Polito and Herman traveled to the Antarctic Peninsula aboard a tour boat with about 200 tourists, Herman said. When not collecting samples from different penguin colonies, they served as experts in residence, educating passengers on their research. “We like to think of Antarctica as this remote, pristine place, but our actions still have an effect on the environment over there,” Polito said. “There are two ways that humans have an impact on marine ecosystems. One is with our our fossil fuel and carbon dioxide emissions, the other is through commercial fishing activities, and in the Antarctic Peninsula, there’s commercial fishing for Antarctic krill.”

While people in Baton Rouge don’t see Antarctic krill on their fish platters, the animal contributes to the production of popular products.

Antarctic krill is used to make nutritional oil supplements advertised as more healthy for consumers than regular fish oils. Krill is also used to feed farm-raised salmon to give the fish the pink color consumers see in regular salmon, Polito said. “It’s hard for someone in Baton Rouge to think about how they’re impacting these marine ecosystems,” Herman said. “Everything is connected in this world, and I think it’s really important for people to know that these places are out there and these animals are out there, and however far away they are, what we do affects them.”



UD's Matthew Oliver and Megan Cimino are studying penguins.

A tale of two poles

Tracking penguins and rescuing robots all in a day's work for UD researchers

1:02 p.m., Jan. 26, 2015--Tracking penguins and rescuing underwater robots is all in a day’s work for University of Delaware marine scientists Matthew Oliver and Megan Cimino. 

Over the last few weeks, the researchers tagged Adélie penguins with satellite transmitters to help the research team understand where the penguin parents find food, primarily krill -- small shrimp-like crustaceans.

A UD research team has been studying the Atlantic brant goose and its nesting sites in the Arctic.

Adélies are one of three penguin species that nest along a strip of land called Biscoe Point, about 10 miles from the researcher’s home base at Palmer Station in the West Antarctic Peninsula. According to reports on the Project CONVERGE blog, Adélie penguin population numbers have declined over the last 20 years.

In a few weeks the penguin researchers will measure the weight of the chicks before they fledge, to gain a better idea of the hatchling’s probability of survival.

The UD team, which is housed in the College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment, also collaborated with a research team specifically studying krill, using an unmanned underwater vehicle (UUV) called a glider to measure the water temperature near Palmer Station, as well as the amount of phytoplankton beneath the water’s surface.

Connecting the dots between the phytoplankton -- microscopic plants -- and the krill that feed on them, along with the penguin feeding habits, may help scientists start to paint a picture of what’s happening with this native Antarctic species.

The UD glider is deployed in the middle of Palmer Deep, an underwater canyon, collecting data to help researchers understand how the water column’s temperature, salinity, chlorophyll levels change over time. This will allow the scientists to see if winds, tides or internal waves can affect the stability of the water column. In comparison, gliders from collaborating institutions Rutgers and University of Alaska, Fairbanks are doing transects along and across the canyon to look at spatial variability. 

The researchers unexpectedly had to rescue one of the group’s gliders after it didn’t check in for over eight hours. They suspect the glider got stuck under water in some kelp, but was able to jettison the extra weight it carries for just such emergencies in order to resurface. Once above water, the glider reported its location and Oliver was able to pull it to safety. 

During the rescue, he and a colleague noticed icebergs that had drifted into the water over Palmer Deep. They quickly triangulated the iceberg’s locations and relayed the information to the pilots of the other gliders in an effort to prevent any further mishaps with the gliders still in the water.

Updates from South Georgia Newsletter

Aberrant King Penguin

At the end of December, a rare aberrant plumage king penguin arrived at KEP, probably to moult. The bird’s ear patches, which are bright yellow/orange in this species, were black, though there was some yellow on the top of its breast. The normally bright yellow lower bill plate was also unusually coloured. Compare the colours of the aberrant king to a normal bird in the photographs above.

Only one other report of a similarly aberrant plumage, described as symmetrical partial melanism, can be found; a bird sighted at Crozet Island in 1970. According to a scientific paper published in 2002, plumage colour aberrations are reputed to be extremely rare in king penguins. That said other odd individuals have been spotted on South Georgia amongst the hundreds of thousands of these birds that breed on the island. Other plumage anomalies that have been sighted at South Georgia include the birds below.

Other aberrant plumage king penguins. Photos Patrick Lurcock.


Antarctic Wilderness. (Book Review)

By Birgit Lutz

‘Antarctic Wilderness’ by Thies Matzen and Kicki Ericson has arrived. The couple have lived on the oceans, or rather on a sailboat, for 25 years. In 1999 they married on South Georgia. Recently they spent two years, including the cold and dark winters, living aboard their boat Wanderer III in the bays of South Georgia.

South Georgia is famous for huge bird colonies and enormous populations of penguins and seals that crowd the beaches before a backdrop of breath-taking mountains. It is not difficult to open the shutter to something so beautiful. However the photographs by Thies Matzen stand out among all the images that exist of South Georgia. Photographs such as these are not produced in a short visit. Something transpired here, between the human visitors and the animal inhabitants – they approached each other with time. One gets the impression that in the 26 months that Matzen and Ericson spent on the island, they positively melted into it. Hours, days, weeks Matzen sat with king penguin colonies, days he watched the courtship dances of albatrosses, and always also the sky, the clouds, the light, the wind that rushes off the mountains. “It is all wind and wilderness – and us within it” they write in one of their so sensitive captions.

Matzen has captured the rusty remains of the former whaling station at Grytviken in summer and winter light, in damp, mossy green, and brilliant snow covered white. Above all, the photos convey a deep contentment and harmony – with themselves and the world. First printed in German in ‘Süddeutsche Zeitung’.

Antarctic Wilderness – South Georgia by Thies Matzen and Kicki Ericson has been nominated for the German Photo Book Prize 2015. It is published by MareVerlag in German with an English language insert. 168 pages, 30x26.5cm, €58.

To obtain the book with its English insert visit and place your order at

Weddell seal mother and pup. Image from Antarctic Wilderness.


Bird Island Diary

By Adam Bradley, Station Leader at the BAS Research Station at Bird Island.

The first day of December was a memorable one for me: after nearly 3 long weeks of sailing the Southern Ocean on the JCR, I finally made it back to Bird Island to do a second summer stretch as the Station Leader. That morning I woke early and headed for the ship’s bridge-deck, eyes peeled for my first glimpse of the island. As it emerged from its habitual shroud of mist, it gradually revealed all of those familiar crags and slopes, until at last the base came into view, complete with one tiny orange-clad figure standing on the end of jetty waving at us across the sea.

Fur seal pup having a rest on a nice warm adult male.
Fur seal pup having a rest on a nice warm adult male.

The rest of the day passed in a whirlwind of activity. The team of us going in for the summer first clad ourselves in boat-suits and were whisked ashore by two of the JCR’s RIBs, to be welcomed ashore by the hardy winter team of four. We were also greeted by the wall of smell created by a beach full of fur-seals.

December is the busiest month for the seal research team. Every morning and evening they head to the seal study beach where they work on the programme of continuous monitoring of the seal numbers, using hair-dye to mark and track new arrivals. It is also traditional at this time of year for the humans to dye their hair blonde in an act of solidarity with the seals, a tradition which not even the Station Leader can avoid.

The albatross research team were also put to work immediately, keeping a regular eye on the island’s populations of wandering, black-browed, grey-headed and light-mantled sooty albatrosses. Already by the end of the month the first grey-headed chicks are appearing and the wanderers are doing their spectacular courtship displays on the meadows around the island. The more decisive amongst them also laid their huge eggs and are beginning the lonely vigils on the nest, waiting for their youngsters to emerge.

Big Mac, our largest macaroni penguin colony, is now jam-packed with adult birds and can be heard from across the island and smelt from even further away.

As Christmas approached a giant cake was cooked and decorated with models of some of the island’s animals, and has kept us well supplied ever since.

For New Year we assembled at the end of the jetty to welcome in 2015, surrounded by the night-time noises of the island. For those of us who were also there to see in 2014, we could scarcely believe that a whole year had passed. Time flies on Bird Island!

Photos by Adam Bradley.
Photos by Adam Bradley.

#Penguin of the Day

Magellanic penguin 

Magellanic penguin by hjkwantstoknow

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Bald #penguin gets his own wetsuit

January 25, 2015

Ralph the penguin in wetsuit
Ralph the bald penguin is wrapped up in wetsuit Credit: Marwell Zoo

If you think it's cold, spare a thought for Ralph the penguin. The 16-year-old Humbolt penguin at Marwell Zoo has been fitted with a winter wetsuit.
He malts much quicker than the other penguins so he doesn't have any feathers to keep him warm. He has been fitted with the wetsuit for the past seven years.
Aside from wearing a wetsuit, Ralph swims, eats and plays just like the other penguins. The rubber in the wetsuit, which is the same as a human's wetsuit, is extremely flexible and doesn't restrict his movement.
His partner Coral can often be seen grooming Ralph's wetsuit just as she would if he had feathers.


This Week's Pencognito!

#Penguins of the Day

Adelie Penguins 

Adelie Penguins by Christopher Michel

Adelie Penguins

Adelie Penguins by Christopher Michel

Saturday, January 24, 2015

The Real #Penguin of Madagascar

Posted by Wildlife Conservation Society in Explorers Journal on January 24, 2015
By Graeme Patterson

It has been a decade since viewers first encountered the popular penguins of the crowd-pleasing Madagascar movie franchise. In the 2005 hit, the penguins eventually find their way to the island of Madagascar in the Indian Ocean along with their old friends from the Central Park Zoo: a zebra, lion, giraffe, and a hippo who accidentally got dropped off there. Adventures ensue, the running joke being that these visitors are all out of place on Madagascar, as indeed they are. Or are they?
A rockhopper penguin like the one pictured here is the only known penguin to have made it to Madagascar. Photo by Graham Harris ©WCS
A rockhopper penguin like the one pictured here is the only known penguin to have made it to Madagascar. Photo by Graham Harris ©WCS.
The island nation of Madagascar has for around 100 million years been separated from any major continental landmass. Its unique flora and fauna reflect this, having evolved there with little biological contact with the rest of the world. King Julien and his friends in the animated flick are lemurs,  a more primitive kind of primate (the  group that includes monkeys and apes) found only on Madagascar.

But what can we say about penguins in Madagascar with the celebration of Penguin Awareness Day this week? Sure enough, there really is a ‘Penguin of Madagascar.’
The island of Madagascar in the Southern Indian Ocean. This map can be seen in the Bronx Zoo’s Madagascar! exhibit. Photo by G. Patterson ©WCS.
The island of Madagascar in the Southern Indian Ocean. This map can be seen in the Bronx Zoo’s Madagascar! exhibit. Photo by G. Patterson ©WCS.

In January 1956, a local teacher on the island’s south coast showed a tourism officer a penguin that had been trapped on the beach. The officer took a photo of the penguin and sent it to the eminent French scientist and naturalist Renaud Paulian, who was working in Madagascar. Despite being more of an expert on beetles than birds, Paulian immediately identified it as a Southern Rockhopper Penguin and published his findings.

The fact that a penguin reached Madagascar’s coast is not all together surprising given that Southern Rockhopper Penguins breed as close as 1,500 miles further south (on the Prince Edward Islands in South Africa).

This intrepid bird was found in January, during the breeding season. Male penguins will travel long distances to get food while the females incubate the eggs. Given that there are no other records of penguins in Madagascar (not real penguins anyway!), this was a pretty gutsy individual. And for now he has the honor of being the only wild, non-animated penguin of Madagascar.
WCS works throughout Madagascar to ensure the conservation of the island's unique floral and faunal diversity. Photo by Julie Larsen Maher ©WCS.
WCS works throughout Madagascar to ensure the conservation of the island’s unique floral and faunal diversity. Photo by Julie Larsen Maher ©WCS.
And from this record we can add penguin to the extraordinary list of Madagascar species under threat. Though Madagascar is one of the richest places on earth for biodiversity, the Malagasy people are among the poorest on the planet. This has led to very little attention being paid to the unique plants and animals found there.

At least 18 species of lemur are known to have become extinct since humans first appeared on Madagascar only a few thousand years ago. Fossil evidence shows one of the species, a giant sloth lemur, was bigger than a modern day gorilla – weighing in at more than 300 pounds. How sad we will never get to see it!

Lemurs are a unique primate species found only on Madagascar. The ring-tailed lemur pictured here can be seen in the Bronx Zoo’s Madagascar! Exhibit.  Photo by Julie Larsen Maher © WCS.
Lemurs are a unique primate species found only on Madagascar. The ring-tailed lemur pictured here can be seen in the Bronx Zoo’s Madagascar! exhibit. Photo by Julie Larsen Maher ©WCS.

But let’s get back to those four Hollywood penguins — Skipper, Kowalski, Rico. and Private – who came from New York’s Central Park Zoo, operated by WCS (Wildlife Conservation Society). Even if their story is fiction, there is a real and strong link between New York and Madagascar.

WCS is one of the biggest conservation organizations in the world and has a permanent base in Madagascar working hard to conserve the unique species and habitats there. And in the sister organization to the Central Park Zoo – the Bronx Zoo – visitors can see the Madagascar! exhibit and learn what an amazing place the real island nation is and what organizations like WCS are doing there to protect its exceptional wildlife.
Graeme Patterson is Deputy Director of the Africa Program for WCS (Wildlife Conservation Society).


Which Athlete Was The Best At Hanging Out With A Penguin?

January 23 2015
Samar Kalaf

Friday, January 23, 2015

#Penguin of the Day (Wink!)

Winking Penguin

Winking Penguin by Leeds Medic

Spheniscus magellanicus - Peninsula Valdes

Thursday, January 22, 2015