Sunday, August 30, 2015

Pick out a #penguin

Dr Tom Hart in Antarctica Jim Wilson
Dr Tom Hart in Antarctica
Our work is all about ecology and conservation. There is evidence of penguin declines and we want to find out the causes. We need to know what the threats are in order to mitigate them.
We are monitoring six species of penguin with more than 100 time lapse cameras. Each year, I go to Antarctica for between two and four months, to collect data from existing cameras and set up new ones.

Our cameras overlook colonies and you can see into all the nests. The cameras take photos every hour, sometimes every minute. This means we can count penguin numbers and their movements: how long they go to sea for, how long they forage for, and how much time they spend with their chicks.

We’re trying to work out population movements and structure. We need to know whether colonies function as one unit, or whether they interbreed. If a colony is declining are they migrating out of that colony or are they dying off? The more sensitive the measure the better you can detect early warning signals and we're developing systems that work for seabirds worldwide.

Penguin declines overlap with areas where the greatest impacts of climate change are being seen. However, we cannot be certain that climate change is the driver. There are a lot of fisheries in the area. Absence of sea ice is needed to fish, so where penguins are declining in areas where there is an absence of ice is it simply because of the fishing, or is it because of the climate change that has caused the ice to melt?

If we simply blame climate change we risk overlooking the potential harm of fishing. We also monitor the presence, and absence, of disease. We need to know what causes the decline in order to determine what to do about them.

Penguinwatch is awesome! We’re a year old and we’ve already had over 2.5 million hits on our website. Anyone can participate; you don’t need to be an expert.

We’re collecting more than half a million images every year now. Volunteers are asked to identify the total number of penguins, chicks and eggs by clicking on them. We can observe how individual nests develop over the course of a year, such as when penguins arrive to nest, the dates they settle down, when the eggs hatch, and whether the chicks survive.

Each image is viewed by several volunteers and we find that combining volunteers' clicks is more accurate than one scientist looking at the images. Afterall, everyone makes mistakes! There is a dedicated core of people that keep coming back. We’re getting some beautiful data. Eventually computers will take over more of this kind of data analysis but for the time being there is no substitute for the analysis that humans can do.

I hitch lifts on tour boats because it saves time and money. I give talks to the people on board, who are there because they want to get close to the wildlife, and they often donate to the project. One of our biggest supporters is Quark Expeditions. This year, everyone who participated in the first month were entered into a draw and Quark donated a trip to Antarctica for one lucky Penguinwatch user.

That added nearly one million hits to our website because people wanted to win the prize! A teacher from the United States won the competition, which is really nice. Hopefully the trip will also inspire his students.

In the field, I maintain and monitor about 60 sites. I try to get to them once per year but it’s patchy. Occasionally you have 40 minutes to set a camera up in a snow storm, and then you have to leave because that’s as long as the ship can wait! I've occasionally lain awake in the UK wondering whether the camera is still upright and working.

Our project costs about £60,000 per year to run, although that doesn't include our excellent collaborators. The Australian Antarctic Division started this kind of research and wour niche is making it cheaper and scaling it up. We have collaborators in the United States, Argentina and Chile.

I’ve been sponsored by the Darwin Initiative who helped set the project up in the Antarctic. Most of the cameras are sponsored and donors can adopt a colony. These funds usually pay for replacement cameras so we can keep the project going when the original cameras cease to function.

This is a commitment for the long term. We’ve already been part of setting up a big marine protected area and we’re trying to establish more. The longer you monitor things the better the data gets. You see the long term patterns and whether things are really worrying or just part of a cycle. The interest is there, so I think we can sustain it.

I’m next going out there in October for four months. Two months on a Norwegian lifeboat and two months on a tour ship! 


#Penguins of the Day

Royal penguins marching up and down the creek - Jan 2014 

Royal penguins marching up and down the creek by Barend Becker

This Week's Pencognito!

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

Friday, August 28, 2015

#Penguins of the Day

Identical twins? 

Identical twins? by Michael Shepard

A couple of Adelie Penguins synchronously preening, while a third bird keeps an eye on the photographer. Photographed at Gourdin Island, Antarctica.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Scientists squabble while Africa's only penguins perish

Associated Press

A Penguin runs out of the ocean after swimming with other penguins at Boulders beach a popular tourist destination in Simon's Town, South Africa, Thursday, Aug. 27, 2015.  The penguins on South Africa's west coast are a big tourist attraction, but their numbers have declined and scientists are still debating whether fishing has helped push the species to the brink of extinction. (AP Photo/Schalk van Zuydam)
CAPE TOWN, South Africa (AP) — They're cute, knee-high, they bray like donkeys and are a tourist attraction near Cape Town. But African Penguins — the continent's only species of the flightless bird — are at risk of extinction.

As shoals of anchovies and sardines have migrated south into cooler waters, the population of African Penguins that feeds on the fish has plummeted by 90 percent since 2004 along South Africa's west coast, once the stronghold of Africa's only penguin species.
This decline, recorded by South Africa's Department of Environmental Affairs, led to four key fishing grounds being declared off limits seven years ago in an experiment to see if the measure could help save the penguins. But scientists are still debating whether fishing has helped push the species to the brink of extinction.
The debate has gotten so acrimonious that the Island Closures Task Team, which oversaw the experiment and determined management actions, disbanded last year. Meanwhile, the fishing bans remain in place.

If effective management of the situation is not carried out, the black-and-white seabirds could soon disappear, experts say.

A Penguin runs out of the ocean after swimming at Boulders beach a popular tourist destination in Simon's Town, South Africa, Thursday, Aug. 27...
A Penguin runs out of the ocean after swimming at Boulders beach a popular tourist destination in Simon's Town, South Africa, Thursday, Aug. 27, 2015. The penguins on South Africa's west coast are a big tourist attraction, but their numbers have declined and scientists are still debating whether fishing has helped push the species to the brink of extinction. (AP Photo/Schalk van Zuydam)

In the 1930s, South Africa's largest penguin colony had 1 million African Penguins, and there were many other colonies. Now, only 100,000 of the birds remain in all of South Africa and neighboring Namibia, the only two countries where the species exists. In 2010, the International Union for Conservation of Nature declared the African Penguin endangered.

Now, penguins must swim farther to catch fish, leaving adults weakened. Many have died or abandoned their chicks, with hundreds winding up in the crowded, outdoor pens of a seabird rehabilitation center, nestled on the edge of Cape Town's Table Bay. It is run by the Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds, or SANCCOB. On a recent morning, workers there were feeding and medicating 106 orphans and putting them in pools for a morning swim. Some waddled up to this reporter and gently pecked at her legs. In an attempt to slow the decline, SANCCOB releases rehabilitated penguins into the wild every week.

Relocating penguins to within reach of the masses of anchovies and sardines is only a possibility for chicks — and a difficult one with no guarantee of success.

So, in 2008, the South African government began the experimental ban on fishing in a 20-kilometer (12.4-mile) radius alternating around four key penguin colonies: Robben and Dassen Islands in the Atlantic Ocean and St. Croix and Bird Islands in the Indian Ocean. Some of these waters were hotspots for sardine and anchovy fishing.

A Penguin dives under water in the ocean at Boulders beach, a popular tourist destination in Simon's Town, South Africa, Thursday, Aug. 27, 2015. ...
A Penguin dives under water in the ocean at Boulders beach, a popular tourist destination in Simon's Town, South Africa, Thursday, Aug. 27, 2015. The penguins on South Africa's west coast are a big tourist attraction, but their numbers have declined and scientists are still debating whether fishing has helped push the species to the brink of extinction. (AP Photo/Schalk van Zuydam)

Recently, a team led by Janet Coetzee, a fisheries scientist with the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, was on a small, motorized boat among dolphins, seals and giant shipping vessels and towing a hefty oblong device through a banned fishing area. The device determines how many fish are around. Despite the fish migration, such surveys found there were plenty of anchovies for penguins during certain months.
Penguin biologists believe that closing areas to fishing leaves more fish for penguins and boosts chick survival by 18 percent.

But mathematical modelers of fish populations have reservations about that statistic and insist that the impact of fishing is minimal. Coetzee says fishing quotas already allow only approximately 10 percent of the sardine and anchovy population to be taken, leaving plenty of fish for penguins.

These fisheries experts blame predators like fur seals and sharks, nest flooding, heat stress or disturbances from large fishing vessels for exacerbating the penguin decline — not fishing itself.
Penguin biologists say it's too early to tell.

"These sorts of issues must be teased out and the assumptions clearly understood," said Dr. Rob Crawford, who heads the penguin biologist research. Crawford's team wants to keep the fishing grounds closed for several more years. Fisheries scientists are calling for its end.

The fishing industry is losing its patience and wants to know whether seven years of closures has amounted to anything.

 Penguins swim together at Boulders beach a popular tourist destination in Simon's Town, South Africa, Thursday, Aug. 27, 2015.  The penguins on...
Penguins swim together at Boulders beach a popular tourist destination in Simon's Town, South Africa, Thursday, Aug. 27, 2015. The penguins on South Africa's west coast are a big tourist attraction, but their numbers have declined and scientists are still debating whether fishing has helped push the species to the brink of extinction. (AP Photo/Schalk van Zuydam)

Fishermen follow shoals of fish along the coast. When fishing areas are closed, vessels must take more costly circuitous routes and they suffer losses in catch, said Mike Copeland, strategic project manager for Lucky Star Ltd., a fishing company. An economic analysis of the impact of closures is underway.
"We've been very puzzled as to why the two parties cannot work together to actually come up with sound science that shows exactly what's going on," Copeland said.
An international panel of experts, called for by the South African government to review the experimental closing of the fishing grounds and to find a way forward, met for the first time last year and will reconvene in December.
"There's a lot at stake," said Ross Wanless, conservation program manager of BirdLife South Africa, a non-governmental organization that supports bird conservation efforts. "We need to act now. "


#Penguins of the Day

Emperor and Adelie Penguin Cape Bird Ross Island Antarctica 

Emperor and Adelie Penguin Cape Bird Ross Island Antarctica by ngaire hart (lawson)

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Lost Penguin Pecks At Police in Peru (video)

By 3 News online staff
Wednesday 26 Aug 2015

A penguin was picked up by police officers in Peru over the weekend after it was seen running through the streets.
In video that's emerged online, the bird, now known was 'Pingui', can be seen being fed fish once it arrives at the police station.
Pingui had fallen from a vehicle onto the streets, Sky News reported.
The broadcaster says arrangements are being made to take the bird to a penguin habit, located near where he was found.

Adorable baby penguin hand-reared in Britain filmed having a tasty meal (videos)

Lowen is the last of six chicks to be bred this season season at Paradise Park in Hayle, Cornwall

This adorable video shows the last penguin chick of the season being hand-reared at a British wildlife park. The cute chick called Lowen, which means 'Joyful' in Cornish, is seen being hand-reared as its parents were not supplying him with enough food.

Lowen is the last of six chicks to be bred this season season at Paradise Park in Hayle, Cornwall.
Keeper, Logan Ody, said: "It's been great. In total we have had six penguin chicks so we are doing really well this year.

"A couple of the chicks from earlier this season are proving to be particularly friendly with our visitors and becoming big stars at the penguin photo-call sessions each day."

SWNS Lowen the hand reared penguin at Paradise Park in Hayle, Cornwall
Baby: Lowen the hand reared penguin at Paradise Park in Hayle, Cornwall
Paradise Park hosts a colony of Humboldt's penguins, a species that commonly live along the warm coasts of Peru and Chile. They are considered a vulnerable species in the wild due to human interference and pollution.


#Penguin of the Day

Feed Me More! 

Feed Me More!(Humboldt Penguin) by Steve Harrison Photographic

Friday, August 21, 2015

#Penguin of the Day

Little Blue Penguin 

Little Blue Penguin by Sherilyn

Happy feat: One woman's global quest for penguins

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: August 21, 2015
Jane Walker's obsession has taken her around the world. She explains to Phil Knowling her passion for penguins

Jane Walker says that you can't look at a penguin without smiling. She said: "What's not to love? I was given my first cuddly penguin, named Chilly, when I was about 10 years old – and my fascination with penguins began."

From then on, it's been penguins, penguins and more penguins. Now she works with penguins at Torquay's coastal zoo – but even that is not enough for Jane. Her mission now is to see every species of the bird.

"When I was 17 I met my now husband, Chaz," she said. "On our first date I told him about my love of penguins, and we agreed that on our fifth anniversary he would take me to Philip Island in Australia, to see the little penguins, which are also known as fairy penguins or little blue penguins. It took a little longer than that, but for our honeymoon some ten years later we got there. I sat on the beach, right at the front, and waited until dusk, when the little penguins came out of the water. One came within two feet of where I was sitting – it stopped and just looked up at me for several minutes before it waddled off back to its family. From that moment I knew my ambition was to see all 17 species of penguin in the wild."

Jane estimates that so far she and Chaz have travelled about 64,000 miles in pursuit of her quest. That's more than twice around the world. It seems that behind every obsessed woman is a pretty amazing man. "I knew I would marry Chaz after only one date and not because of the promise of penguin trips," she said. "We just clicked. Still now when he goes on business trips he always brings me back a penguin. It's also him trawling through the internet for hours in search of the perfect penguin holiday. He really enjoys visiting new countries and the planning, particularly when it works out so well."

About six years after their honeymoon, the couple went to New Zealand, where Jane managed to tick off the yellow-eyed penguin in Dunedin. "We saw them on the beach from a distance. They are very shy and private. We also looked for fiordland penguins near Queenstown, but unfortunately they were nowhere to be seen."

Then her love of penguins changed her life. Ten years ago, the couple visited Living Coasts while on holiday in Devon. She said: "I spent ages talking to the penguin patroller, whose job it was to keep an eye on the wandering birds and make sure people and penguins mixed happily. Driving back home to Birmingham, I told Chaz how much I would love to be a penguin patroller, but I went back to running my celebration cake business."

Remarkably, ten months later Chaz got a job offer to work in Devon to work with boats, which are his passion. Jane's first question was: "How close is that to Living Coasts?" It turned out to be close.
"I sold my cake business and our house and we moved to Devon," she said. "Then I applied to become a volunteer at Living Coasts." In 2007 she started at Torquay's coastal zoo and aquarium, providing cover for penguin patrollers. When a staff penguin patroller left, Jane got the job.

Living Coasts penguin patrollers make sure both penguins and people have a safe and enjoyable experience when they meet. "We answer questions and talk about the penguins and the charity's conservation projects, for example our support for SANCCOB, a South African bird rescue and rehabilitation group that does a lot for African penguins. I also do observations on the penguins for the keepers. "I enjoy telling visitors about the penguins. I particularly love it when children are really interested and ask lots of questions. They love to see the eggs and feathers we keep to show them."

Now she works with penguins every day – it's her dream job. She said: "I know all the macaroni penguins by name, I can recognise their flipper tags and have memorised most of their birthdays.
"As for our African penguins, there are more than 70, but I know over half by name – I know the names of all the others but I can't recognise every single bird.

"We shouldn't have favourites, I love them all, of course, but if I am allowed to pick out a few by name then Solly, Yoyo and Babe, the macaronis, are all characters. As for the African penguins, well, there's Pat our oldest, Kevin, Olive, Charlie... OK, I could name them all."

The 2010 World Cup in South Africa presented Jane with her next opportunity to see penguins in the wild. "Chaz loves football, I love penguins – so he started planning a penguin/football holiday. We based ourselves in Simon's Town, just a five minute walk from Boulders Beach, where we could spend lots of time with the Endangered African penguins in between England matches. I also spent a couple of days working with SANCCOB. I helped with sick and injured wild African penguins."
Jane recalls some penguin incidents.

"Solly on the trolley! The ice-cream trolley used to go past the penguins to get to the Jetty food outlet. One day Solly hopped on as it went through. The delivery man didn't notice until Solly jumped off as he unloaded the ice-cream. The keepers had to carefully herd him back to Penguin Beach."

On another occasion one penguin, Pickle, was in a bad mood and started pecking Jane's legs. "Immediately another, Babe, came running over, chased him off then came back to preen me," she said.

Last November, the couple went penguin-spotting on a cruise around South America and the Falkland Islands and in February this year they flew to Santiago in Chile to spot Humboldt penguins. The couple have now started looking for their next penguin holiday.

"Out of the 17 species, we have nine still to see – and these nine are in places that are more difficult to reach," she said. "Antarctica, Galapagos, Snares Island, Maquarie Island. I'm sure one day we will complete the list, with determination and my love of penguins. Chaz is already looking at trips to Antarctica."


Dogs banned from Cape Town beach after penguins killed

(File) (Shutterstock)
Cape Town - Dogs have temporarily been banned from along Burghers’ Walk to Links Crescent in Simon’s Town after eight endangered African penguins were killed in two days.

Dog walkers have also been urged to keep their pets on leashes and under control when using the area stretching from Links Crescent South to Fisherman’s Beach, the City of Cape Town said in a statement on Friday.

The attacks are understood to have taken place on Wednesday and Thursday.

Nest counts of breeding penguins conducted recently showed that of the 982 nests counted, 109 nests are located just along Burghers’ Walk and the areas immediately south.

Mayoral committee member for energy, environmental and spatial planning Johan van der Merwe said the African penguin is currently listed as endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources, with a steady decline in numbers over the past decade.

"The overall population of this species is estimated to be a mere 2.5% of its population level some eight decades ago," he said.

"The Department of Environmental Affairs published the Biodiversity Management Plan for the African penguin in October 2013… and the City therefore has an obligation to put measures in place to protect penguins on City property, especially during the breeding and nesting seasons."

The ban will remain in place until further notice, the City confirmed.

Law Enforcement will monitor this stretch and anyone who sees unaccompanied dogs roaming in the area is urged to phone 021 596 1999.


Thursday, August 20, 2015

The tiny green island where penguins rule

When penguins come to mind (and when don’t they?), the picture you’re bound to think up is the desolate white expanse of Antarctica. But penguins live in many various ecosystems throughout the Southern Hemisphere, including a large penguin population on Australia’s lush, green Macquarie Island.

Only 20 miles long, this narrow slice of land lies isolated more than 900 miles south of Australia, but boasts a diverse ecosystem with large multi-species penguin populations, seals and albatrosses.
The penguin population was hunted to near extinction in the early 20th century, when penguins were prized for their blubber. But conservation measures enacted in the 1960s and, more recently, UNESCO World Heritage inscription in 1997 have helped to protect this island’s unique ecosystem and its vulnerable inhabitants.
Image: Nick Rains/Corbis 
Image: Nick Rains/Corbis
Image: Nick Rains/Corbis
Image: Colin Monteath/Hedgehog House/Corbis42-27245724
Image: Thorsten Milse/Robert Harding/Corbis
Image: Thorsten Milse/Robert Harding/Corbis
Image: Tui De Roy/Minden Pictures/Corbis
Image: Otto Plantema/Buiten-beeld/Corbis42-33410842
Image: Konrad Wothe/Minden Pictures/Corbis
Image: Brett Phibbs/Corbis
Image: DLILLC/Corbis
Image: Brett Phibbs/Corbis
Image: Otto Plantema/Buiten-beeld/Corbis
Image: Wolfgang Kaehler/Corbis 

#Penguins of the Day

Penguins by the Shore 

African Penguins by the Shore by Priscilla Hotzman

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

#Penguins of the Day

Magellanic penguins / Magellan-Pinguine (Spheniscus magellanicus) - Monte León National Park, Patagonia, Argentina 

Magellanic penguins  (Spheniscus magellanicus) - Monte León National Park, Patagonia, Argentina by Andrea Schieber

Lily the Penguin Waddles Onto the Scene at the Aquarium for First Time

by Asia Morris 
August 18 2015 
DSC 0172 - Copy
Photos by Asia Morris.

The Magellanic Penguin chick who hatched on June 5 at the Aquarium of the Pacific, made its public debut this morning as aquarium officials reintroduced the nearly three-month-old once-fluffy ball of feathers to its friends and family in the June Keyes Penguin Habitat.

Lily, whose female gender was determined through a recent blood test (as Magellanic male and female penguins are difficult to tell apart to the inexperienced eye "until someone lays an egg"), was removed from her nest 25 days after hatching and taken to a nursery behind the scenes. There, she was given the necessary time to grow watertight juvenile feathers, a process called fledging, before she could enter the water. Lily also learned how to swim and take hand-fed fish.

DSC_0220Aviculturist Sara Mandel, who we’ll call the penguin whisperer for obvious reasons, frequented the exhibit today to ensure Lily’s safety as a new member of the clan. Described as having a tenacious curiosity, the new chick flitted in front of aquarium visitors and their camera lenses without an ounce of shyness. At three months old, she has almost grown to the size of an adult.

Magellanic Penguins are native to the coasts of Argentina and Chile in South America. The public can not only visit the chick on exhibit, but help support her through the aquarium’s Adopt an Animal program. For more information, click here. Guests can also purchase an Animal Encounter with the penguins, by clicking here.

See all the coverage on social media or add to it with the hashtag #LilyWaddles.