IT’S no more Mr Happy Feet — despite a reputation as one of the most endearing members of the animal kingdom, the affable penguin has a dark side you won’t see in any Hollywood animation.Each year, Argentina’s Patagonian coast becomes the arena for a brutal fight club where penguins engage in deadly face offs and four-ton elephant seals clash so violently their fights have been described as the bloodiest battles in the animal kingdom.
The distinctively striped Magellanic penguins arrive on the coast in September, making donkey-like calls to declare devotion to their partners. But the love-in doesn’t last long.
The bond between the male and female penguins is so fierce that any threat to it can prompt the male to risk his life — and any bird that wanders too close to a nest is viciously attacked.
Usually a few nasty — and bloody — bites to the face will be enough to discourage the gate crasher, but some issues appear beyond a peaceful resolution.
The rules of the Patagonian fight club seem to dictate that a fight will go on for as long as it takes — and a penguin clash can sometimes run for hours with the rivals battling each other across the beach.
The penguins aren’t the only animals at war. Male elephant seals are even more violent, often clashing so fiercely that they will crush and kill any animal that wanders too close to the battleground, including their own pups.
The bloodbath typically lasts until December, when the animals have finished raising their chicks and leave for better feeding grounds.