As crime waves go, there’s something very fishy about a series of thefts taking place at the London Aquarium. As the mating season begins, ‘criminal’ Gentoo penguins have been stealing pebbles from rival nests. This is not the Penguin Posts first encounter with penguin pebble thieves and we’re sure it won’t be the last, as with a stealthy glance over their shoulders, the fiendish birds quickly waddle to their neighbors’ unguarded nests, steal a stone and run back to their own nest. In many cases it won’t be long before the ill-gotten stones will again be stolen by another bird or even the original owner. You can blame this circular crime wave on hormones more than anything else, but it’s a crime none the less. But as the number of break-ins increase, the Gentoos have become suspicious of their fellow colony members, and no one is beyond suspicion. If they notice a rival moving in to plunder their pebbles they quickly run back to defend their nests, keeping everyone on their webbed toes. The colony of 10, which arrived at the attraction last year, are in the middle of their first mating season at the aquarium. Males declare their interest in a female by selecting and presenting a ‘love token’ in the form of a pebble to their chosen female. If it is accepted, the couple then begin collecting more pebbles to line their doughnut-shaped nest. The birds build their stone nests to elevate and protect their eggs. Smooth pebbles are ‘like gold dust’ because they are easy to pick up and comfortable to lie on, according to those who tend to the birds. Hayley Clark, aquarist at the Sea Life London Aquarium, said extra pebbles had to be put into the enclosure after burglar Vladimir has conducted daily robberies on surrounding nests. She said: ‘Some of them are a little bit more tricky than the others, they keep an eye out for the owner of the nest before stealing. A couple of them will just run straight to a nest and will be chased off straight away. ‘They just prefer a certain type of pebble. Pebbles are like gold dust to these guys. ‘The male works out where he wants his nest and that is when he starts collecting pebbles. The female will join in as well after he has given her a few pebbles to place in the nest how she wants it. ‘It is like giving your girlfriend chocolate.’ Ms Clark added that there has been ‘a few tiffs’ over pebble thefts. ‘They will run over pretty sharpish and tell them where to go,’ she said. ‘It can get a little bit aggressive but they generally back away very quickly.’ No eggs have been seen yet but breeders are hoping that a few will turn up in the next few weeks. The pilfering activities of pesky penguins were also featured in the BBC’s Frozen Planet when crews captured Adelie penguins performing a similar thefts while filming in Antarctica.
Archive for April, 2012
A penguin plush by any other name is still a penguin plush or a stuffed penguin. I’m kind of on the fence. What can I say, I was never a fan of the term “stuffed animal” as it sounds like I got my penguin at the taxidermist, but people don’t usually say “aw, that’s a cute penguin plush”. It just sounds too awkward, and only my 5 year daughter can get away with “plushie”. My un-scientific survey says “stuffed animal” or “stuffed penguin” usually wins out over penguin plush, but to each his /her own. The worst term for me was when I had my brick and mortar shop at South Street Seaport and people use to ask me “how much are your Teddy Bears?” while pointing at a stuffed penguin on a shelf. Teddy Bears!? They were so use to saying Teddy Bear in reference to any plush that they just couldn’t help themselves, even in what was obviously an all-penguin store. Kind of like calling a Penguin Bank and “Piggy Bank”. I don’t like it, but I get it none the less. Still, I digress. Be it penguin plush, stuffed penguin or ee-gads, penguin teddy bear, Penguin Place has just added 10 new ones this month to our ever growing plush penguin “igloo”. Some look like very realistic like the Adelie plush large and small and Shaggy penguin, and others like Posh, Punk Blackfoot and Bright Eyes are just cute and kind of silly. There’s even a very lovely Sweetie Plush Penguin with an embroidered heart who’s arrived a couple of months too late for Valentines Day. But, nearly a dozen new plush / stuffed penguins only adds to the worlds largest single offering of plush penguins from one store / website.
So you thought there were no more penguins to root for in hockey this season? The NHL Penguins may have bowed out of the playoffs last week, but their minor league AHL cousins affectionately known as the Baby Penguins, who officially go by the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins defeated the Hershey Bears, 2-1, in the decisive Game 5 of their Eastern Conference quarterfinal series to take the series 3 games to 2. By virtue of winning the series, the Penguins advance to the second round of the 2012 Calder Cup Playoffs to take on the St. John’s IceCaps beginning Tuesday night in Newfoundland.
Usually, we mock criminals as idiots when they can’t help themselves and brag about their crimes on Facebook, only to get caught shortly thereafter. Not that anyone I know would do this, but ask yourself, if your “crime” was getting drunk, breaking into Sea World, swimming with dolphins, and making off with a 7-year-old fairy penguin, how in the world could you resist the urge to share that incredible night with the rest of the world? Especially when you wake up with a hangover and a penguin in your room? A not too bright and very drunk trio of U.K. tourists in Australia found themselves in that exact situation last week, and have since been arrested for doing just that. A friend of theirs reportedly tipped police off after reading their Facebook post, and they were shortly apprehended—but not before they released Dirk the penguin into the a nearby canal where he nearly was injured or worse by sharks (in the water) and dogs (on the shore). But fortunately for Dirk (and the three tourists) Dirk is just fine; after a couple spotted him being chased by a dog on the banks of the canal. Thinking it odd to see a penguin in that area, the couple chased the dog away, Googled “lost penguin,” quickly realized who the penguin was, and called Sea World. So, now with Dirk back at Sea World safe, sound and reunited with his mate Peaches. That’s right, we found out Dirk has a girlfriend named Peaches. So, with Dirk coming out of this unscathed this story turns out to be more of a silly, drunken boys night out, Hollywood B-movie rather than the sad tragedy it came very close to becoming. The difference between the three men being international villains and facing serious prosecution and a kind of funny / dark story is that Dirk did not become a shark meal or dog food. Dirk, it seems like the rest of us is walking a fine line every day.
The Penguin Post has learned that Dippy the Humboldt Penguin at the Aquarium on the Isles of Wight has come up slightly lame with sores on each foot, and although he won’t need surgery he must wear special shoes for the time being. Recent X-Rays show no sign of permanent damage, but Dippy needs to be kept out of the water and away from the other penguins for a few days to allow his feet to heal while wearing his fab shoes.
The Penguin Post has learned that a King penguin that hatched on April 9 was shown off at The Aquarium at Moody Gardens in Galveston, Texas yesterday. The still-unnamed chick is the second to hatch this season. A blood test will be done to determine the sex of the penguin chick and then it will be named. The chick weighed 20 ounces at birth and will grow to about 35 pounds and 36 inches tall. It will join its parents named Petty and Chilly Willy and 31 other King penguins in the exhibit. It is the 14th King penguin to have been successfully bred at the aquarium. The public can also see the penguins on the Penguin Cam .
The Penguin Post has learned that there is a waddling love story, of sorts, going on at the Sedgwick County Zoo, in Wichita, Kansas. As male Humboldt penguins go, Penguin Orange Blue Blue (so named because of the bands he wears) is quite the catch. He came from a good “genetic” family, wears a tux, is devoted to his lady and is charismatic with people, often the first penguin to greet visitors as they pass by the pool at the zoo’s Cessna Penguin Cove. Meanwhile, female penguin Blue Green Green (guess how she got her name) has had her share of heartache. She fell for the wrong guy, genetically speaking, twice. As we all know breaking up is hard to do (especially twice). But, especially for penguins as they tend to be monogamous.
And then, Penguin Orange Blue Blue came along offering blades of dried grass, suggesting she build a nest. She did. They did. They have yet to produce any offspring. And yet, these two are hope for future populations of Humboldt penguins (and monogamy) everywhere. “He is a real priority for us to reproduce with this certain female,” said Joe Barkowski, the zoo’s curator of birds. “She has reproduced before and this is an important pairing genetically speaking. It will be a boost for the population to get his genes represented, and this penguin has good genes.”
Theirs is only part of the story that was told this past Saturday, which was World Penguin Day. The other part is that the zoo isn’t lacking for baby penguins. Four 6-week-old downy chicks were introduced to reporters on Thursday. They were all about the size and weight of adults cats – 6 to 7 pounds – and about as easy to herd and wrangle. The chicks and their parents occupy three of the nest boxes at the Penguin Cove; Penguins Mr. Blue Green Green and Ms. Orange Blue Blue occupy the fourth. Barkowski and penguin keeper Steve Larson interacted with the chicks briefly for their weekly weigh-in, but for the most part kept their distance as baby penguins are known for projectile pooping.
From the chicks to the Couple Green and Blue, the story is about Humboldt species survival plans. These are a South American penguin, typically breeding in coastal Peru and Chile, and Humboldts are are considered threatened, with only about 9,000 breeding pairs in the wild. That’s why zookeepers pay so much attention to how they mate. They keep detailed records of each of the zoo’s 25 penguins on breeding and management plans, looking at each DNA and likelihood for reproduction. When the “wrong” penguins become attracted to each other, they are separated. The genetically correct pairs are put in holding rooms behind the exhibits where they can eyeball each other, get acquainted and develop bonds. Just like any arranged set up, with luck, the pair will begin to bow to one another, vocalize and build a nest. On Thursday when the chicks were briefly separated from their parents, the loudest objections – squawking and honking that sounded more like donkeys braying – came from Couple Green and Blue. Stay tuned.
The Penguin Post has learned that Google has announced that it is releasing a new search algorithm that it hopes will better catch people who spam its search results or purposely do things to rank better that are against Google’s publishers guidelines. Going live today, Google says the “Penguin Update” will impact about 3% of search queries.
The Penguin Post has learned of new details of what may be the ultimate penguin experience (outside of a trip to Antarctica) by SeaWorld in Orlando, Florida regarding the park’s upcoming 2013 much anticipated new attraction, Antartica – Empire of the Penguin. The penguin-centric ride will utilize new technology that will allow the guests to experience the ride differently from visit to visit. Guests will also be allowed to choose the thrill level they wish to experience as each car seats eight people who can decide as a group which level they’d prefer. Also, as part of the ride a new SeaWorld star will be introduced – a young Gentoo penguin who will serve as the ride’s guide. No word as to the technology that will allow that to happen. The attraction will immerse guests in an incredible penguin experience with various species including: Gentoos, Rockhoppers, Adelies and Kings. Designers have yet to reveal how close guests will get to the penguins, but the penguins’ habitat must stay in the low 30 degrees for their comfort, so you may want to bring a jacket. With the habitat kept at that temperature, Antartica – Empire of the Penguin will be the coldest theme park attraction in the world. Or the coolest to say the least.
Yes, it’s time to get out your tuxedo or penguin costume as this April 25th is International (World) Penguin Day. So, what exactly is International Penguin Day and when did it begin? For me it began about 20 years ago when I read an article in the Science New York Times about researchers at McMurdo Station in Antarctica who had noticed that every year, like clockwork, on April 25th a colony of Adelie penguins returned from months at sea to the exact same spot on the exact same day every year. These delighted scientists and their support crew marked it on the calendar and would make a day of it, gathering near the shore to celebrate and welcome the penguins who would arrive by the hundreds right on schedule every year. It became an unofficial holiday at McMurdo known to the staff as Penguin Day. So when I read the article in The Times two decades ago, I became intrigued and contacted some folks I knew who had worked at McMurdo Station to confirm. Not only did they confirm, but they expanded on the story, which I then passed along in an article in the print version of the Penguin Post in 1997. In the article I gave it a bit more of an important title calling it World Penguin Day since I felt Antarctica is an international place, and besides World Penguin Day sounds like a holiday penguin lovers everywhere could celebrate. Within a couple of years with the dawn of the internet word of the April 25th Adelie penguin phenomenon spread and it took on a life of its own to the point where it’s now an internationally celebrated “niche” holiday. So, now that you know it’s World Penguin Day, what should you do to celebrate? Obviously, this is a holiday to have fun with and put your penguin passion front and center. So have a blast and try to do lots of things “penguinish”, whether dressing in plenty of black and white, wearing penguin apparel and / or accessories, eating fish (healthy), waddling every now and then (remember to stretch first), telling penguin jokes (keep them clean), watching a penguin video (be it a nature film, animated or something in between like Mr. Popper’s Penguins), read about penguins (plenty of kids and adult books are available), visit penguins at your local zoo or aquarium, adopting a penguin or maybe even treating yourself by buying up hordes of penguin merchandise.