Posts Tagged ‘African Penguins’
The Penguin Post has learned of an array of measures being considered by the South African government in an attempt to stave off the rapid decline of the African Penguin. Permanent or temporary exclusion zones around African penguin breeding islands – including for fishing vessels – are among a raft of proposed conservation measures aimed at preventing the iconic species from possible extinction.
Other measures include looking at ways of protecting penguins at Burghers Walk, east of the Boulders penguin colony, in Simon’s Town near the South African Cape; managing penguins’ natural predators such as Cape fur seals and kelp gulls, including possible culling; improved monitoring for oil pollution that affects penguins through increased aerial patrols; stopping the international trade in wild-caught penguins; and a capture, raise and release program for penguin chicks that are unlikely to survive without intervention. They are among measures outlined in a 65-page draft African Penguin Biodiversity Management Plan gazetted yesterday by Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa. There is a 30-day comment period.
The African penguin, formerly known as the jackass penguin, was SA’s most abundant seabird in the early 20th century. However, its numbers have crashed so severely that its Red List status is given as “endangered”. Ornithologists believe the population may have been as high as one million breeding pairs in the 1920s, but that dropped to 147 000 pairs in 1956/57, 75 000 pairs in 1978, 63 000 pairs in 2001 and just 25 000 pairs in 2009. The present population is only about 2.5 percent of its historical level.
The bird has been assigned its endangered status because the breeding population has decreased by 50 percent in the three most recent generations. The species is endemic to southern African, occurring only between Algoa Bay in the east and central Namibia. The greatest current threat to the African penguin is probably the lack of prey, mainly sardines and anchovies, that appear to have shifted significantly eastwards in recent years. But oiling through pollution – the Treasure oil spill in June 2000 affected 40 percent of the total population – the removal of guano from islands (that penguins burrow in to make nests) and predation by Cape fur seals, kelp gulls and also by alien invasive species are other major problems. The draft biodiversity management plan, issued under the National Environmental Management: Biodiversity Act, emerged from a major planning workshop held in Arniston in October 2010, hosted by the national Department of Environmental Affairs and CapeNature.
Other measures in the plan include: Investigating and monitoring the possible impact of fishing near penguin colonies, with an island (fishing) closure feasibility study under way and to be concluded by 2014. Promoting and enforcing the Southern SA Special Waters Area, declared under the MARPOL Convention for the prevention of pollution by ships. Building a database of oiled feathers for oil fingerprinting analysis. Investigating and evaluating the efficacy of air restrictions over breeding colonies. Ensuring the protected-area status of all localities that have African penguin breeding colonies, and establishing an African penguin stud book for all penguins in captivity.
The Penguin Post has learned that after a much anticipated wait Topeka Zoo patrons will finally get their chance to dive into the world of penguins when the Penguin Plunge opens Thursday. A grand opening ceremony is scheduled for 9:45 a.m. for the temporary exhibit of six African penguins in a replica of their South African beach habitat. The exhibit, which is housed in a building the presenting sponsor, KBS Constructors, erected specifically for it inside the Security Benefit Pavilion, is free with regular paid admission to the zoo, which will stay open until 8 p.m. Thursday to accommodate first-day visitors.
Special activities are planned for evening patrons. Zoo director Brendan Wiley said, “People are ready to go in and enjoy the experience,” which includes a 2,000-gallon pool with a glass wall through which people can watch the penguins “fly” beneath the water. The penguins are on loan from the Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha, Neb. Other aspects of the exhibit include educational stations that tell visitors about the 17 species of penguins worldwide and threats to their populations, such as overfishing, oil spills and harvesting of guano, which destroys nesting sites. Dispensing such information, Wiley said, helps the zoo fulfill its mission statement to “enrich the community through wildlife conservation and education.” Based on response from other places the Penguin Plunge has visited, the drawing power of the nearly 2-foot-tall birds is huge and could help the zoo toward an attendance goal it has set in its strategic plan. That document calls for roughly 175,000 guests to visit the zoo this year, an increase of 15 percent from 2011, and a step toward the goal of drawing more than 250,000 annual visits by the end of 2015. That is twice the current population of Topeka, said Wiley, or every four years a million opportunities to advance the zoo’s wildlife conservation and education efforts. Achieving that goal will mean continued maintenance of current exhibits, introduction of new ones and temporary ones, such as Penguin Plunge, which draws new visitors and rewards regular ones. “One of the things we’re focusing on is giving people more and more reasons to come back,” Wiley said. On Thursday, gates to the zoo will open, as usual, at 9 a.m. After opening comments at 9:45 a.m., Stephanie Tucker’s second-grade class at North Fairview Elementary School will be introduced. Those Seaman Unified School District 345 pupils raised nearly $1,000 in a Pennies for Penguins Coin Drive that helped generate the money needed to book the Penguin Plunge exhibit. Cair Paravel Latin School second-graders also will attend to perform a penguin song and dance before the 10:10 a.m. ribbon-cutting and the opening of Penguin Plunge, which is slated to be at the zoo until September. There will be a free penguin education program inside the exhibit at 11:30 a.m. Evening activities include a free “Make and Take” penguin craft project sponsored by Scrapbooks Etc. and given to the first 200 people entering the zoo after 5 p.m.
The Penguin Post has learned that a pair of baby penguins rejected by their mothers are being hand-reared by keepers – using soft toys and bird noises to stop them being lonely. The fluffy duo cuddle up to their surrogate pals while listening to penguin noises piped into their pen at Living Coasts in Torquay, U.K. One of the African penguin chicks was half the size of its siblings when it was born in December, while the other was abandoned by its mother before it hatched last month. In the wild, groups of young penguins are often kept together for warmth and safety in a crèche. Staff at the park bought a couple of $5.00 toys from the gift shop to act as surrogate siblings and replicate the effect. Workers also started playing penguin noises to the chicks because it will help them to slowly reintegrate with their colony. Spokesman Stuart Wright said: “Putting the penguin cuddly toys in there gives them something to react with and nestle up against. In the burrows of the nest they would be closed in, the parents sit on them to keep them warm and it just adds that extra factor to cuddle up to under the heat lamp.“They are being taken out for brief periods each day to interact with the birds out there.” The younger chick is being fed liquidised herring and sprat every three hours, while the older one has now advanced to whole sprats.
The Penguin Post has learned that in partnership with the Wildlife Conservation Society, Burger King is offering children an opportunity to name the one year-old Black-Footed Penguin living at the New York Aquarium in Coney Island in Brooklyn, New York. The penguin, a native New Yorker, was born in Rochester New York. He was then donated to the Wildlife Conservation Society. This new promotion by Burger King, along with the Wildlife Conservation Society, is aimed at inspiring children’s imaginations and to also empower them to learn more about important causes and charities. Bertina Ceccarelli, the Executive Vice-President of Global Resources, Wildlife Conservation Society said, “Our partnership with Burger King Corp. has helped us educate young Americans about the importance of saving wildlife and wild places, while providing direct support for our conservation programs. The Black Footed Penguin is found only in Africa. Excellent swimmers, they can reach speeds of 15 mph and remain underwater for 2 1/2 minutes when they are hunting prey. Black-Footed penguins frequently swim jumping in and out of the water, which is referred to as “porpoising”. Traveling in groups, this largest species in the family of flightless birds, often venture 30 miles in search of a meal. On an average they live between 10-11 years with a record age of 24 years recorded. Their mating call resembles the sound of a donkey, so they are often called the “Jackass penguin”. With a population of over 5 million a hundred years ago, fisheries have since depleted the Black-Footed Penguin’s preferred prey and with their eggs considered a delicacy, it is estimated that only 55,000 still remain. As a result, they were listed as endangered under the U.S.A. Endangered Species Act in September, 2010. The deadline for submitting penguin names is right around the corner on Sunday, February 19, children wishing to participate, simply can login at Name the Penguin Contest. Burger King will post the top five names chosen by the Wildlife Conservation Society on February 20. Following the announcement, children are invited to return to the site and vote for their favorite names. The winning name will be revealed the week of March 5 at a special live naming ceremony held at the New York Aquarium. This partnered promotion provides both fun for kids and also presents a creative way for children to get involved in bringing the plight of the Black-Footed Penguin into public awareness. What do you think? Share your opinion in a comment.
I have a real soft spot for the Maryland (Baltimore) Zoo as a few years ago I was treated to a behind the scenes, up close and personal chance to hang out in the penguin den for an hour. That afternoon was without a doubt my personal favorite live penguin experience. I doubt any of the penguins remember me, but I sure remember them.
Today, the Penguin Post is happy to report that the 52 African penguins at The Maryland Zoo are doing just fine and are more popular than ever as they chew on shoe laces, hide underneath rocks and skirmish among themselves. They are a curious, stubborn, squawking lot. The keepers at their Rock Island habitat, the zoo’s penguin exhibit since 1967, have their hands full. Always. “This is kind of like having a day care with a bunch of 3-year-old kids sometimes,” said Jen Kottyan, the high-energy manager charged with their care. Yet it’s those same quirks that have allowed the waddling, attention-craving penguins to endear themselves to their human keepers. Their antics during public feedings draw a crowd no matter the time of year, including in the winter months when the Maryland Zoo was previously closed to visitors. The zoo is open 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Fridays through Mondays in January and February for the second consecutive year. A few of the species, including some African birds and tortoises, are kept indoors during teeth-chattering, cold winter days. But most of the zoo’s more than 2,500 animals deal with frigid weather just fine. The African penguins seem right at home. The species is native to the rocky coastline of South Africa and Namibia and its temperate climate. Only a few penguin species live as far south as Antarctica in the wild. The zoo’s penguins are free to meander about outside as long as their 250,000-gallon moat is not completely frozen over.
If it gets too chilly even for them, they can retreat to a heated indoor sanctuary. When the domesticated penguins spot caretakers and visitors inside their habitat, many of them wander over. And that’s when the fun starts. Depending on their moods, the penguins will peck at pant legs, surround their human counterparts or jostle with each other. If one of their human handlers omits a yell that sounds like a braying donkey, the penguins will mimic it. The high-pitched squawk is the reason why the African penguins are nicknamed the jackass breed. “We don’t like to call them that,” Kottyan said, “but the kids get a kick out of it.” During a public feeding Friday, the penguins gathered while caretakers flung herring, capelin and squid at the group. The penguins each eat about a pound of fish each day. Their human overseers closely track how much each penguin in the group eats. Two of the zoo’s four penguin chicks were brought outside for the public feeding. Four penguin chicks have been successfully bred there in recent months, Kottyan said, with the most recent one born on Christmas Day. The Maryland Zoo has raised more than 800 chicks and plays a role in the African Penguin Species Survival Plan. The zoo has raised chicks that are now on display throughout the country at other exhibits. The Maryland Zoo has the largest collection of African penguins in the U.S. The African penguins are threatened due to overfishing and frequent oil slicks in their home habitats, which happen to be near busy shipping routes for crude. “If they get coated with oil, they want to clean themselves and wind up ingesting it,” Kottyan said. The plight other species of penguins have been featured in major motion pictures such as “March of the Penguins”, “Surf’s Up”, “Madagascar” and “Happy Feet” in the last decade, but the not so glamorous African penguin has not seen the Hollywood spotlight yet. Kottyan said zoo visitors took notice. “We hear the comments even still when we are out in the public feeding that our penguins don’t look like the ones from ‘March of the Penguins,’” she said. That’s because they are a completely different breed. “March of the Penguins” followed a colony of Emperor penguins in Antarctica. The 2-feet-tall African penguins are roughly half the size of their Emperor counterparts. Regardless, Kottyan said the movies sparked an interest in their plight and allow the keepers to explain that there are different types of penguin. Even in Africa, where these penguins are considered endangered by The
International Union for Conservation of Nature. The penguin exhibit is among the most popular at the zoo, staffers said. A few times each year, the zoo holds Breakfast with the Penguins programs. This year’s programs are scheduled for 8:30 a.m. April 14, July 6-7 and Sept. 8. “They sell out every single time,” Kottyan said. During the events, visitors have the opportunity to eat breakfast, feed the penguins and learn more about their behavior. They discover what their caretakers have known for so long: The tiny penguins can be rambunctious, loving, inquisitive and maddening all at once. “Working with these guys,” keeper Betty Dipple said, “prepares you for motherhood.”
The Penguin Post has learned that a pint sized penguin loving Picasso is leaving a cool webbed footprint in the art world. Eleven-year-old Dylan Ward, from Washington, could not believe it when his 15 original penguin prints sold out within a day and a half of going on display at the Biscuit Factory Gallery, in Newcastle, UK. Art lovers clamored to get their hands on the schoolboy’s work after he featured on Noel Edmond’s Christmas Presents show on Sky TV. The presenter was touched by Dylan’s efforts to sell his paintings to raise money for Macmillan Cancer Support, and whisked him to South Africa to see the penguins he paints in the wild. Since then, the Blackfell Primary School pupil’s penguin paintings have gone on display in the gallery which has sold hundreds of prints, as well as the originals, to help him raise charity funds. Dylan, from Ayton, said: “I think it’s brilliant to see my own paintings in an exhibition and to raise money for Macmillan. “Some people have asked me to sign their prints, which makes me feel really proud. “Going to see the penguins in South Africa was the best bit of my life.” Dylan was inspired to pick up his paintbrush after the death of his grandfather, John Pearson, who died from cancer in 2009, aged 53. John was cared for by Macmillan Nurses, who the kind-hearted schoolboy decided to help and has since raised £3,000 for the cause. As well as featuring on Noel Edmond’s Christmas Presents, Dylan was named as Britain’s Kindest Kid in a Channel 5 show. He has also won a Pride of Wearside award for his charity work. His mother Annmarie said: “Dylan was filmed at the gallery for the TV show and they said they wanted to help him. “I don’t think they expected to sell so many prints. “The gallery owner has been lovely and has given Dylan some canvases to paint more originals.” She added: “A lot of the paintings were inspired by his trip to South Africa, some of them are fingertip paintings which have been really popular.” Although Dylan’s original paintings have been sold, fetching up to £75 a print, they are on display at the gallery on Stoddart Street until Sunday.
The Penguin Post has learned that it appears Canada’s beloved gay penguin couple has split up. Buddy and Pedro made international headlines earlier this year when the Toronto Zoo had to separate them to encourage them to mate with female penguins. Buddy succeeded, but Pedro didn’t seem to have any luck, the Guardian reported. In the midst of that, the formerly close penguins began fighting across their respective nests, the Toronto Star reported. The injuries could have been quite serious if there wasn’t mesh netting separating the cages, the newspaper reported. “It’s a common male trait. They set territory around a nest,” said Tom Mason, a zoo official. While there was no actual proof that the penguins were gay, they drew worldwide fans and even a petition on Change.org asking the zoo not to separate them. Now, their fans seem to have trouble accepting the star-crossed love may have fizzled on it’s own. On their fake Twitter accounts, the penguins denied they were separating. “No TV in here. Probably just more awful rumors about @BuddyPenguin anyway,” Pedro the Penguin tweeted.
You wouldn’t think it, but when it comes to water, penguins aren’t naturals. “Some of them are terrified,” says Bethany Wlaz, a keeper at the Maryland Zoo in Baltimore. So each time African penguins are born into the zoo’s breeding program for the endangered birds, someone like Wlaz becomes their swimming coach. But first comes the introduction to being wet. Soft as a cotton ball and about the size of a football, Male One — hatched on Oct. 12 — is lowered into a stainless steel sink by Wlaz and Betty Dipple, another animal keeper. “Araaah,” the bird protests, as a stream of lukewarm water washes over its head and flippers. “Araaah.” Back and belly, tail feathers and webbed feet, nothing escapes the faucet. Five minutes later, the penguin’s first bath is in the can. While Male One is being dried and wrapped in a fluffy towel, Male Two — four days younger — gets the same treatment and emits a similar donkey-like bray. Puffs of gray down float in the air. “They’re getting the full salon service,” Wlaz says. Doting on African penguins has been a Maryland Zoo specialty for more than three decades. With 55 to 65 birds living at the moat-enclosed area known as Rock Island, the zoo has one of the largest breeding colonies in the country. Another major colony is at the New England Aquarium in Boston. The work is of global importance because African penguins, found only along the southern shore and islands of Africa, are teetering on the edge of extinction. As the Penguin Post has learned all to well their numbers have declined from as many as 4 million in the early 1900s to 60,000 in 2010, according to the Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds. Fewer than half of them are estimated to be breeding pairs. African penguin eggs were targeted up until the 1960s by people who considered them a delicacy and scooped them up by the millions.
The penguins’ habitat has been destroyed by commerce and oil spills, and overfishing and climate change have depleted their food, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources. The Assn. of Zoos and Aquariums has developed a species survival plan to map out breeding to ensure a strong genetic pool while scientists and conservation groups try to stabilize the population. The Maryland Zoo keeps breeding pairs on hand and distributes other penguins to zoos for display or breeding. The parents of Male One and Male Two — proper names are coming, zoo officials promise — came to Baltimore a year ago. The father hailed from Tampa and the mother from Memphis. They quickly became a family of four, with the newborns spending three weeks with their parents before keepers took over the domestic duties. “It’s hard to have an entirely bad day when you’re around penguins,” Dipple says as she slides a chunk of squid into the gaping black beak of Male One. The chicks weigh 4.9 pounds and 3.8 pounds. When fully grown right around Christmas, they’ll be 23 to 25 inches tall, will weigh about 8 pounds and will be fully decked out in black-and-white plumage.