February 27, 2015
The Penguin Post has learned that there are plenty of people who want to spend five months in the bitter cold, sleeping little, be virtually isolated from the world, won’t be able to shower for up to a month and live in close proximity to three people and 2,000 penguins for five months, and work for the post office.
In the two weeks since February 16th posting, over 1,500 people have applied for only four positions with the Royal Mail—that’s 375 applicants per spot—to be an assistant at the southernmost post office in the world in Port Lockroy, Antarctica. In 2014, the total number of applicants for the same positions was a whopping 82. Inquiries skyrocketed after a documentary about the outpost aired on the BBC and PBS, according to the organization that runs it, the UK Antarctic Heritage Trust.
In addition to the cold and isolated conditions, the job is a bit unique for a postal employee. The assistants have to run the base’s museum and shop, monitor the 2,000 Gentoo penguins that hang around, assist the 18,000 visitors to the island and handle the 70,000 letters that tourists post for that cherished Antarctica postmark.
February 26, 2015
The Penguin Post has learned that Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium has a trio of brand new penguin chicks that are going on display today. The chicks — two Rockhoppers and one Gentoo — are being set up in a penguin playpen in the zoo’s Antarctic Penguin display. The playpen gives the chicks a chance to safely get used to the other penguins in the exhibit, while allowing their feathers to grow in. They’ll stay in the playpen for a few weeks.
Gentoo on the left, Rockhoppers on the right.
The Rockhopper chicks (pictured right), which hatched between Dec. 11 and Dec. 15, weigh about 4 pounds, and the Gentoo penguin (pictured left) weighs about 12 pounds. In the wild, Rockhopper penguins reside in the South Atlantic, Indian and Pacific oceans. Gentoo penguins can be found on Sub-Antarctic islands with the main colonies on the Falkland/Malvinas Islands, South Georgia and Kerguelen Islands. Rockhoppers are currently listed as vulnerable and Gentoos are near threatened, both with declining populations, on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List due to fisheries, loss of habitat and oil spills.
In addition to these chicks, Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium currently has 80 penguins on display: 22 King penguins, 32 Gentoo penguins and 26 Rockhopper penguins.
February 20, 2015
PENGUINS are among the world’s most dedicated seafood eaters. But they can’t taste fish, biologists have discovered. The Penguin Post has learned that Chinese and American researchers have found that the flightless birds have only two of the five basic tastes — salty and sour — after losing the capacity to detect sweet, bitter and “umami” or savoury flavours.
Jianzhi Zhang, a genomic evolutionist at the University of Michigan, said the results were surprising. “Penguins eat fish, so you would guess they need the umami receptor genes,” he said. The discovery, revealed in the journal Current Biology, adds to the taste limitations known to bedevil some of the world’s most loved and loathed creatures. “Whales and dolphins have lost all tastes except salty,” Professor Zhang told The Australian. “Vampire bats have lost sweet and umami tastes.”
Adelie penguins and their water-going cousins can’t taste their prey’s fishy flavor, scientists have found.
Birds also lack receptors for sweet flavors, even though many eat fruit and nectar. Scientists believe birds lost the T1R2 gene — which is crucial for tasting sugar — sometime during or after their evolution from meat-eating dinosaurs. The latest study found that receptors for detecting bitter and savory tastes were also missing from the genomes of Adelie and emperor penguins. Subsequent research revealed the other 15 penguin species also lacked these genes.
The researchers believe another key gene, known as TRPM5, may have effectively been frozen out of the genome of living penguins’ most recent common ancestor during an evolutionary stint in Antarctica. TRPM5 is “temperature-sensitive” and doesn’t function properly when things “get really cold”, the journal reported. While some penguins now inhabit warmer latitudes, all penguin species trace their roots to the frozen continent. But the study has raised a chicken-and-egg question, with the researchers unsure if penguins swallow fish whole because they can’t taste them, or vice-versa. Anatomical studies have found that penguins’ tongues are covered by a thick layer rather than taste buds, suggesting they’re used to catch food rather than taste it. “Their tongue structure and function suggest that penguins need no taste perception,” Professor Zhang said. “It is unclear whether these traits are a cause or a consequence of major taste loss.
February 11, 2015
The Penguin Post has learned that Australia’s oldest man, Alfred “Alfie” Date has spent a lot of his days knitting sweaters for little penguins. The sweaters were requested from Victoria’s Phillip Island Penguin Foundation in 2013, to assist the survival of little penguins after an oil spill. Little penguins are a species of penguin only found in southern Australia and New Zealand, with a lone colony of 32,000 remaining on Phillip Island. The sweaters are needed because the oiled penguins will lose much of their natural insulation until they recover.
The 109-year-old, who lives in a retirement home on the New South Wales Central Coast, was asked by two nurses to help make the sweaters, as they had heard he was an experienced knitter. It was a request he could not refuse. Using heavy wool provided by the nurses, Alfie put his 80 years of knitting skills to good use and got to work.
The self-taught knitter, who refined his skills after making a baby jacket for his nephew in the 1930s, has seven children and 20 grandchildren, and “about the same amount” of great grandchildren. Alfie remembers the sinking of the Titanic in 1912 and the declaration of World War one. He told his secret to a long life is simply “waking up every morning.”
Donations of the knitted penguin outfits were received from all over the world. The foundation says this “is not a fashion statement” but instead they help the little creatures if they are affected by an oil spill. Oil can make their feathers stick together, allowing water to get to their inner layers. This causes the little penguins to get cold and not be able to hunt due to heaviness. When oiled penguins arrive at the foundation, they are given a jacket to wear so that they don’t consume the toxins or preen their feathers. In 2001, 438 penguins were affected in an oil spill at Phillip Island and by using the knitted outfits, 96% of the penguins were rehabilitated at the clinic, according to the foundation’s website.
The center currently has “plenty of penguin jumpers (sweaters) at this time donated by generous knitters across the globe” and has asked for no more donations from eager knitters. Today, Alfie keeps active by knitting scarves for friends and beanies for premature babies.
February 10, 2015
The Penguin Post has learned that a trio of penguins injured in barracouta attacks off the Catlins coast in New Zealand are being returned to the sea after being nursed back to health. In this release three of the endangered yellow-eyed penguins, including a breeding pair, were released into the wild at Purakaunui Bay yesterday.
The birds have spent the last few weeks at Penguin Place (not to be confused with Penguin Place in the U.S.) in Dunedin, NZ recovering from injuries inflicted by barracouta. New Zealand Department of Conservation (DOC) ranger Mel Young said high numbers of barracouta off the Catlins coast were taking a bite out of the area’s endangered resident yellow-eyed penguin population, but Doc’s interventions were keeping the birds alive. Seventeen injured penguins had been taken to Penguin Place so far this year, including 13 from the Catlins, which was many more than usual. Three or four injured birds would be more typical. This year four birds had died while in care for their injuries, including one that died while undergoing surgery.
Yellow Eyed Penguin
”There’s just a lot of barracouta out there,” Ms Young said. Three weeks ago, one of the adult females released yesterday was found ”bleeding profusely” on the rocks at Purakaunui Bay. The bird would have died had it not been taken to St Kilda Veterinary Centre in Dunedin, Ms Young said. The adult breeding pair released yesterday was found only days later injured and listless with two emaciated chicks at a beach further north. Both birds had successful surgery performed by Dr Lisa Argilla from Wellington Zoo in their rehabilitation. The pair’s two chicks remain at Penguin Place for the time being.
January 23, 2015
As we all know penguins typically don’t need help staying warm, but the Penguin Post has learned that a Humboldt penguin named Ralph who lives in the United Kingdom with a rare condition has had a special wet suit made for him for when the temperature drops.
While all penguins molt or shed their old feathers for a few weeks in the summer, Ralph, a 16-year-old Humboldt penguin at Marwell Wildlife, near Winchester in the United Kingdom, has “extreme molts” that cause bald spots on his skin, according to Ross Brown, the animal collections manager of birds at the center.
The feathers grow back only to fall out when he molts again. “Seven years ago we noticed that Ralph began molting any time of the year,” Brown says. “He goes bald and his body seems out of sync, but we don’t know why it started.” To protect Ralph from the cold and even the heat, he wears a custom rubber wet suit, just like the suits surfers wear in the ocean. Brown says that Ralph is not one to get lost in the crowd with a wet suit that says RALPH in capital letters. Ralph’s partner, Coral, can often be seen grooming Ralph’s wet suit like she would if he had feathers.
“You would think that he would be bullied or outcast because he looks different in his wet suit, but he stands his ground, he thinks he looks cool, he stands out from the crowd,” Brown said. We do too.
December 6, 2014
The Penguin Post has learned that scuba expert Derek Youd gets to have the ultimate diving buddy. He is Yoyo, the Macaroni Penguin, and whenever there’s a diver about, Yoyo is more than happy to coach them in advanced underwater penguin skills. Yoyo is one of 70 penguins at the Living Coasts Zoo and Aquarium in Torquay, Devon, where qualified scuba divers can enjoy a ‘diving with penguins’ experience. But for dive supervisor Derek, it’s 18-month-old Yoyo who always makes the experience memorable.
‘Yoyo was hand-reared by keepers, so he is especially confident around people,’ Derek explains. ‘He fusses around the divers when they are getting ready and likes to inspect their gear. ‘Once we are in the water, he is such a good swimmer and he’ll circle around us, tugging on anything loose like hair or a zip.
‘Like all youngsters, playing is uppermost in his mind. He seems to think all diving in the pool is for his personal benefit. ‘He has plenty of his own penguin friends. It’s just that we have to remind him sometimes that he is a penguin too!’
December 5, 2014
According to the USPS December 9th is the deadline to get international packages out via air mail to Europe, Canada and Asia that will arrive by Christmas. The deadline for Africa, Central and South America was December 2nd.
December 5, 2014
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