Air Mail Penguins

November 7, 2014

We love all our international customers, and the fact that there are so many devoted penguin lovers all over the world.  Most of the time our international orders ship within 24 hours and take between a week (Canada) to 10 days (Europe) to a couple of weeks (Australia & Asia).  In reality the length of time it takes to arrive at the various destinations depends more on the respective customs and local post offices as much as distance.  But, with the holidays coming up it’s all about volume and many packages get stuck and backed up waiting to clear customs.  So, that said, when it comes to international air mail penguin orders, and given our experience in all matters of mail order penguins, our advice to our penguin loving international customers is that you should place your orders at least 4 – 6 weeks in advance to guarantee your penguins arrive in time for the holidays this season.

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Can Hand Reared African Penguins Be Released In The Wild?

November 6, 2014

Along the Western Cape of South Africa lives a group of endangered African penguins. These penguins breed from February through September, and then moult sometime between September and January. During the moulting period, the penguins are deprived of their waterproof feathers. That’s 21 days in which they’re prevented from diving for food and must rely on stored up fat for nutrition until their new feathers grow in. But if they begin the moult while they still have penguins in the nest, the chicks – who rely on their parents for food – could go hungry.

To help guard against starvation, the Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds (SANCCOB) rescues these so-called “abandoned” penguins chicks whose parents just went and started moulting, leaving their precious babies to slowly starve to death. Once the penguin chicks grow up a bit, SANCCOB releases them back into their breeding colonies. In 2007, they cared for more than 480 such chicks, and nearly twice as many the year before.

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What University of Cape Town animal demographer Richard B. Sherley wanted to know was whether the birds who wound up being released back into the wild fared at least as well as those who were raised by their parents, as nature intended.

In both 2006 and 2007, SANCCOB rescued a number of orphaned Africa penguin chicks. Many of them were starving because their parents began to moult, others were abandoned by their parents after their nest sites became flood, and still others were left alone after their parents themselves had to be rehabilitated due to oiling. Of those brought in for care, 91% were released in 2006, and 73% were healthy enough to release in 2007.

Before being released, many of the birds were banded so that researchers could track their progress. The researchers estimated that 11% of rehabilitated and released penguins were recruited into breeding populations, with around 14% surviving to breeding age.

These may seem like low odds, but they compare favorably to both the likelihood of penguin survival following oil spill-related rehabilitation, and even to the likelihood of survival when penguin chicks are reared by their own parents, free of human intervention.

Half of those who were confirmed breeders had returned to their birth colony, while half had joined other colonies. That suggests that hand-rearing is a viable, if labor-intensive and costly, means to bolster the size of individual penguin colonies. It also suggests that abandoned chicks could be a useful way to help establish new breeding colonies, in better areas. “As the situation for African penguin has continued to deteriorate on the West Coast, plans have been developed to use conservation translocations to establish new breeding colonies in areas of higher prey availability along the South African coast,” write the researchers. Despite the fact that half of penguins in the current study found their way back to their birth colony, penguins aren’t stupid. “Translocated individuals will undertake some prospecting behaviour to evaluate the quality of their new habitat,” Sherley explains. If they’re released into a high-quality site with lots of prey, they might just stay.

It’s not just that penguins are adorable, iconic critters. As a group, seabirds are some of the most endangered birds on the planet. Nearly half of seabird species are declining, with nearly a third having earned a spot on the IUCN Red List. African penguins in particular declined by some seventy percent in the last 15 years, mainly owing to declines in their preferred prey, small baitfish like sardine and anchovy. By combining the hand-rearing of malnourished chicks with the establishment of new colonies at more optimal locations, researchers and conservationists might be able to help ensure a bright, fishy future for these most charismatic of seabirds.

Adorable Robot Penguin Alert

November 3, 2014

Studying wild penguins is crucial if we are to understand why they behave the way they do. But what if the apparently passive act of observation changes the way they behave? For decades, behavioral ecologists have been very mindful of this problem. A paper, just out in Nature Methods, suggests a cunning new way to collect data from penguins in their natural habitat without causing them undue stress.

A remote-controlled vehicle disguised as an emperor penguin chick makes a stealthy approach Photograph: Yvon Le Maho et al. Nature Methods

A remote-controlled vehicle disguised as an emperor penguin chick makes a stealthy approach.

There are many ways to study the behavior of penguins. You can go out and gain their trust, hoping they get so comfortable with your presence that they carry on as if you weren’t there at all. Or you might want to fit your study population with some kind of gizmo that can collect (and maybe even transmit) data in your absence. But even devices like these are likely to alter behavior.

A microchip implanted beneath the skin is much more likely to go unnoticed by the penguin. The snag is that in order to scan the chip and identify the individual penguin, you have to get pretty close. Researchers have now come up with an alternative: sending in a remote-controlled robot penguin equipped with a scanning device, the ability to collect all sorts of data on the focal animal and then transmit it into the ether. Testing this method out on king penguins, they reveal that it is likely to be a whole lot less stressful for the animals.

When approached by a human, for instance, a penguin’s heart rate increased by an average of 35 beats per minute. When the rover came at it, its heart rate also increased, but only by around 24 beats per minute. In addition, a human caused the target penguin to move much more (average of 43 cm) than the rover (just 8cm). With the robot, the penguins were also much quicker to return to their original physiological state.

The researchers went on to see if emperor penguins had a similarly relaxed reaction to robots. Many were wary. But when the scientists dressed up the rover as a baby penguin, everyone was happy. “Chicks and adults were even heard vocalizing at the camouflaged rover, and it was able to infiltrate a crèche without disturbance,” note Yvon Le Maho and colleagues.

The camouflaged rover successfully infiltrates an emperor penguin crèche Photograph: Yvon Le Maho et al. Nature Methods

The camouflaged rover successfully infiltrates an emperor penguin crèche.

This set-up is obviously not going to be workable in every setting. But it certainly does open up a lot of exciting possibilities for students of penguin behavior. Not to mention some rather wonderful photographic opportunities.

Penguins and Daylight Savings Time

November 2, 2014

Penguins-Are-Right-to-Love-DST-600x357-1With the clocks turned back this morning one hour and a long dark winter about to commence here in New England the Penguin Post has learned that there is at least one place on earth that observes perpetual summer time (even if it doesn’t feel like summer time): the penguin dominated Macquarie Island. If it weren’t a 3-by-23-mile sub-Antarctic island inhabited by millions of penguins and about 40 seasonal researchers, it would probably be my residence of choice. Don’t ask me how those penguins and scientists benefit from DST because I don’t know, but I’m sure they do. Everyone benefits from DST. More’s the pity that Australia, which administers the island, is not on Macquarie time.

Sadly, the debate in most of the world revolves around whether to keep Daylight Saving Time at all, let alone extend it throughout the year. Most critics of our annual clock change reside in the opposite camp from mine, pressing for year-round winter time.

But DST and its later sunrise and sunset bring many advantages to the table. First, energy savings may equal 100,000 barrels of oil a day. (Admittedly, many critics dispute this figure, and Mass DST energy savings are minimal.) The extra hour gives people more daylight time for shopping, which is supposed to equal economic growth, and, according to the International Business Times, “Several studies in the U.S. and Great Britain have found that the DST daylight shift reduces net traffic accidents and fatalities.” It also cuts down on crime.

Meanwhile, opponents of DST all grouse about the confusion engendered by clock changes. They are by no means wrong. People forget to set their clocks and are late for appointments—or they use the change as an excuse. Some countries and even some places in the U.S. don’t switch time, which increases the mess and makes interstate scheduling chaotic. Hawaii doesn’t observe DST, and neither does Arizona, but the Navajo Nation, which is within Arizona and two other states, does. As if that’s not confusing enough, the Hopi Reservation, which is entirely surrounded by the Navajo Nation, does not observe DST. Apparently even Siri, the iPhone electronic assistant, is confused. More troubling is that heart attacks appear to rise more after the spring forward, than fall back.  Why?  I don’t know.

But why take it out on DST? It’s the clock change that’s the problem, not the daylight. This year, when we go on Daylight Saving Time, let’s simply stay there and never go back.

Of course, I already hear complaints of insensitivity toward the farming community and toward school children, whose winter days would start in unwelcoming, even dangerous, darkness. But I suspect any protests on behalf of dairy farmers come from romantics who have never visited a factory farm, where milking goes on around the clock.

I also suspect those dark childhood winters gave me a lifelong craving for more daylight—a craving that couldn’t even be satisfied by the long days and bright nights of the summer. Daylight Saving Time, with its illusion of an extra hour of light, satisfies that craving. And while waking up to darkness is no fun, having the sun disappear prematurely is truly depressing; it’s not for nothing that Shakespeare called sunset “Death’s second self.” So let’s just not touch our clocks this fall. There’s much to be learned from the penguins of Macquarie.

Penguin Pale Ale IPA

November 1, 2014

The Penguin Post has learned that today is the release of Penguin Hops! This new beer was made to showcase the unknown hop varietals grown  at Chicago’s own Shedd Aquarium.

page0001_445_286_c1_center_topThe hops were steeped in the kettle at the end of the boil to impart a suppleness of their flavor and aroma to the brew. This Pale Ale style is both lighter in color and malt presence than our Iron Fist, which makes it enticing to both the craft brew enthusiast as well as the newly intrigued beer drinker. $1 from each beer sold will also be donated to the Shedd Aquarium.  Unfortunately, it’s only being sold locally in Chicago.  Of course as it’s called Penguin Hops the logo is an adorable Penguin Rockhopper!

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Penguin Meats Is Not What You Think

October 30, 2014

First, let’s get this out of the way: Penguin Meat Supply Ltd. does not sell penguin meat. The company, which has been operated by the Michaluk family since 1964, processes and distributes just about every other kind of meat, however.

The Penguin Post has learned of a five decade old business in British Columbia, Canada called Penguin Meats and like we said, it’s not what you think. It’s long been a family affair at Penguin Meats in White Rock, B.C.. Run by four generations of the Michaluk family, Penguin Meats was first established by brothers Vic and Walt Michaluk and father Terry in October 1964 in Whalley, B.C. before moving to White Rock, at 1554 Johnston Rd., where it has flourished over the years.

This Saturday, the store will mark 50 years with a celebration at the retail store recognizing their longstanding staff and loyal customers. The meat shop, with the signature green awning, is where Vic and wife, Irene, raised their children, including Toni, who has worked at the shop since she was a young girl. It was there that Toni met Doug Charles, while in high school. They’ve been married for 38 years. “He was working (there) after school,” Irene explained. “Doug went to school in White Rock and at that time, we lived in North Surrey, and that’s where Toni went to school.” Decades later, Penguin is now where Toni’s sons, Ryan and Brody, work – in the Langley warehouse and the retail office, respectively. The meat shop had humble beginnings, Vic said, when it was just himself, his father and his brother running a country grocery store or milking cows on the family farm where Nicowynd Golf Course is now located. “My dad bought the farm because the Korean War had just started up, and if the Korean War was anything like Second World War or the First World War was – because he was in both – he knew the only people who had everything they needed was farmers,” he said. “The only thing they needed was sugar and coffee, the rest they had. And the sugar was used to make moonshine – very important stuff.” Buying milking cows, however, was expensive in 1952, with one cow costing upwards of $700. Then, when they became too old to milk, the cows were sold for a fraction of that amount. “So (my dad) said, ‘well, I know I can make better if I can make it into a sausage,’ so he bought a meat shop,” Vic laughed. “It was difficult at that time, because we were on a shoestring. “He had a number of businesses, but his passion was food from the old country – Ukraine. A lot of the things they used to do over there, they brought with him.” Soon, Vic’s father was introduced to two brothers who ran Penguin Delivery, and seeing the potential, invested. However, a series of events led to Vic’s father breaking off the partnership. “So he told them to pay him back or he’d take the property, and he ended up with the property, which he sold to Safeway (in Whalley),” Vic said. During that transition, Vic continued to work as a pedal-truck driver for Penguin Delivery, until his father approached him with a new offer.

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After acquiring a property in White Rock through a business transaction, he was hoping to open a meat shop across the street where cement bricks were being put up, and he wanted his sons to run it with him. “I said, well, we’re doing quite well, I don’t think I want to do something like that,” Vic said. “But then he asked, what would happen if I broke my leg? Would Irene go out and look after the customers?” “I might have,” Irene laughed. And with that, Penguin Meats was established on what was then King George Highway. In 1972, Vic bought out his brother, and a year later, his father. “But (dad) still hung around. On the weekend he was the collector, ‘til the day he passed away in 1983,” Toni said. “He was actually looking at another meat-delivery endeavour,” Vic added, laughing. Over the decades, while food trends have changed, the team at Penguin Meats has stayed the same for the most part, with staffers spending decades serving customers or working in the warehouse. “We’ve had our ups and downs with the economy, but we still persevered,” Irene said. “I keep preaching to my grandchildren, people need to eat. If you look after them, they’ll always come back,” Vic added. Taking care of their customers has extended to caring for their community, with Irene noting that many times staff have played the role of directory when the phone rings with inquiries about nearby shops. “They may not know the name of the store, but they know we’ll know,” Irene laughed. The family also supports local sports, including minor baseball and minor hockey, as well as the Surrey Eagles.“We do what we can. And we want to thank everyone in the community for supporting us,” Irene said.

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International Penguin Lovers FYI

October 30, 2014

Word to the penguin wise.  if you are an international penguin lover or know one, and you’re thinking about placing a holiday order with Penguin Gift Shop, please order early.  As it usually takes a week or two for international order to arrive once we ship it, as we get further into the season not only does the volume slow down packages, but they get slowed down at customs as well.  So, what may be a week or two in the off season can be two to four weeks during the holidays.  So, order early and get some penguin piece of mind.

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Blessing The Penguin

October 29, 2014
A four-month-old Humboldt penguin named "Kaya" is blessed by a Catholic priest prior to its first swim Wednesday, Oct. 29, 2014 at the country's largest oceanarium, the Manila Ocean Park in Manila, Philippines. Kaya, born July 8, 2014, becomes the first penguin to be born in the country.

A four-month-old Humboldt penguin named “Kaya” is blessed by a Catholic priest prior to its first swim Wednesday, Oct. 29, 2014 at the country’s largest oceanarium, the Manila Ocean Park in Manila, Philippines. Kaya, born July 8, 2014, becomes the first penguin to be born in the country.

In this photo by Bullit Marquez, Roman Catholic priest Jacob Gomes blesses a 4-month-old Humboldt penguin before it takes its first swim at the Manila Ocean Park in the Philippines. The park launched its baby penguin attraction Wednesday and announced the winner of a contest to choose the baby’s name, Kaya, meaning competence or ability in Tagalog. Before the penguin’s first swim, it was placed in one side of a pool, separated from its penguin parents by a net. During the blessing, Gomes stressed the importance of environmental conservation and the need for people to protect all species of marine life, which are “a creation of God.” Kaya was born July 8 and is the first penguin to be born in the country. Its gender is not yet known.

World’s First Test Tube Penguin

October 29, 2014

The Penguin Post has learned that a Chinstrap penguin chick which has the unglamorous title of ‘184’ until it is given a name, was hatched at SeaWorld in San Diego 12 weeks ago, though the first images of her were only made public this week.

Penguin 184’s success could help scientists restore threatened penguin populations in future

Penguin 184’s success could help scientists restore threatened penguin populations in future

184, who is the first penguin to be born via artificial insemination, represents a huge step for researchers in helping to diversify captive penguin populations and aid their studies.

Yellow-Eyed Penguin Count

October 27, 2014

The Penguin Post has learned that teacher Christina Greenwood, of Wanaka, New Zealand leaves next month on an expedition to the Auckland Islands to count yellow-eyed penguins. And, she says, if previous counts are anything to go by, she will have somewhere between none and ”heaps” of penguins to count.

Ms Greenwood, who teaches geography, tourism and social studies at Cromwell College, and another teacher, Frazer Dale, from Auckland, were selected by the Sir Peter Blake Trust to join eight Department of Conservation staff and volunteers carrying out the survey at various nesting sites around the islands. The team leaves Bluff, aboard the yacht Evohe, on November 17. Ms Greenwood said she hoped the trip would benefit her pupils by increasing their awareness of the ”amazing resources” New Zealand has guardianship of and by creating connections with the trust.

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Originally from the north of England, Ms Greenwood has sailed with her husband and two young daughters through the Pacific Islands but has not been south of New Zealand before. ”It might be quite a rough passage to get there and then I think we are just expecting fairly wet and windy conditions.” Ms Greenwood is a fully qualified sailing, climbing, kayaking and mountaineering instructor. Before dawn each morning, she and other team members will be dropped at points around the islands. ”We’ll end up going ashore in the dark and then walking to our counting sites. ”Because [the penguins] go out to sea at dawn, you have got to be in place before they get up.” The last estimate was done in 1989 and since 2009 Doc and the Yellow-eyed Penguin Trust have been gathering data to calculate a revised population.

The penguin counting team will return to Bluff on November 30, weather permitting.


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