Year Of The Penguin

October 9, 2015

There are all sorts of landmark years. This year marks The Year Of The Penguin as 2015 is the 100th anniversary of the arrival of the first penguin to be kept in Japan.

“Penguin Arrives” was the headline of an Asahi Shimbun article in June 1915 about the arrival of a Humboldt penguin at the Ueno Zoological Gardens in Tokyo. But the subhead stated bluntly, “It is expected to die soon.”

Sure enough, the paper’s headline proclaimed nine days later, “Penguin Dead.” According to the article, the keepers had done everything in vain to care for the bird, giving it plenty of ice and lots of fresh fish. Native to Chile, Humboldt penguins normally tolerate heat well. But this particular bird had been transported over a long distance, which probably stressed it out. Also, the keepers were not experienced in handling a penguin.

A century has since passed, and Japan today is said to be the world’s No. 1 penguin keeper. As of 2012, there were about 3,600 penguins of 11 species at zoos around the nation, where they are noted crowd-pleasers.

In the wild, however, some species are declining in population. Among them is the Humboldt, which accounts for the largest number among species kept in Japan.

Another species that has undergone drastic depopulation is the African penguin, which inhabits the southwestern coast of Africa. And should global warming increase, the population of the statuesque Emperor penguin in Antarctica, standing more than 1 meter tall, is expected to shrink.

These exotic birds in “tail coats” were made known to the Japanese people by the Japanese antarctic expedition of 1910-1912, led by army Lt. Nobu Shirase. Photographs of penguins taken on the expedition survive today, and one team member was said to have penned this haiku: “It is so frigid, penguins dance on ice floes.”

Shirase referred to penguins as “extremely comical creatures” in his log. He probably did not know about their aquatic prowess. Emperor penguins have been recorded diving more than 600 meters–a feat no human could ever emulate.

Penguins are taken on walks through the snow at Asahiyama Zoo twice a day from December to March

Penguins are taken on walks through the snow at Asahiyama Zoo twice a day from December to March

Gone But Not Forgotten, The Penguins Of Silver Spring

October 7, 2015

Although the penguins of Silver Spring’s Metro station are still gone, The Penguin Post has learned that a Montgomery County official says residents can rest assured they haven’t been forgotten.

With last month’s opening of the Paul S. Sarbanes Silver Spring Transit Center, some are wondering when the 100-foot-long “Penguin Rush Hour” mural will return. The mural, which shows penguins with briefcases and newspapers rushing around a Metro station on the way to work, was installed in the late 1980s along Georgia Avenue under the Metrorail overpass.  It was originally meant as a temporary art installation, but the penguins (for obvious reasons) became so popular that Metro agreed to keep it in place.

A close-up of the "Penguins Rush Hour" mural that used to be at the Silver Spring Metro station

A close-up of the “Penguins Rush Hour” mural that used to be at the Silver Spring Metro station

It was there until 2004, when after about 15 years of being out in the elements, parts of the mural were in dire need of restoration. Montgomery County promoted a “Pennies for Penguins” fundraising campaign that raised $30,000 for the effort. Sally Callmer Thompson, the artist who painted the mural on 25 plywood panels in her Bethesda home,restored it in 2006.

But with construction on the Transit Center anticipated next door, the county didn’t want to reinstall the mural right away, according to Silver Spring Regional Center Director Reemberto Rodriguez.  The Transit Center project finally finished in September, five years after it was scheduled to open.  Now folks want to know when the penguin mural, which is sitting in storage in the Silver Spring Civic Building, will finally reappear.

On Sept. 25, someone behind the parody “SS Transit Center” Twitter account tweeted “I was PROMISED PENGUINS. Where are my penguin friends?!?” Rodriguez said the mural will be installed in the same location, though the county still must figure out the logistics of making it happen.

“We’re committed to bringing them back out,” Rodriguez said Tuesday. “I can’t say whether it will be tomorrow, next week or the next month. But it’s really just a matter of going through with it and taking the steps to get them cleaned up.” Rodriguez said local arts organizations and the county’s Department of General Services, which led the Transit Center project before turning it over to Metro, will likely be involved. “I know we’ve had years to think this through,” Rodriguez said. “But we just don’t want to throw this out there. We’ll be working with other agencies and interests to make sure it happens.”

Taking Penguin Protection Into Their Own Hands

September 16, 2015

The Penguin Post has learned that in New Zealand in the small coastal town of Breaker Bay residents are taking no chances when it comes to their nesting penguins and have started a community of dog walkers to cut the risk of dogs attacking penguins.  Residents here have started a dog walking group and have nearly 30 members which is just about all the residents with dogs.

Dogs are also not allowed on the coastal walkway from Tarakena Bay to Moa Point as it is a penguin nesting area, and dogs are a threat to penguin populations.

The dog walkers group in the area are now self-managing the problem of over enthusiastic dogs around penguins and say they do not need help from outside groups such as Forest and Bird.

Local Forest and Bird Wellington branch committee member Ken New said the Places for Penguins program operates around the south coast to protect penguins from their two principal threats to Wellington area penguins, dogs and cars,” he said.

Wellington City councillor and Breaker Bay resident Ray Ahipene-Mercer takes Wiki, a stuffed female penguin, into schools to teach children about penguins.

Wellington City councelor and Breaker Bay resident Ray Ahipene-Mercer takes Wiki, a stuffed female penguin, into schools to teach children about penguins.

Wellington City councelor and Breaker Bay resident Ray Ahipene-Mercer said education was the most important tool for keeping the penguins safe. “In the last 20 years we’ve seen a great change from antipathy to protection. We have to maintain the momentum with the education and think about further creative ways of getting the message across,” he said. Ahipene-Mercer speaks to schools in the area about penguins and their nesting habits.

One of the most effective changes in the community was the installation of penguin crossing signs in 1990, he said. The signs were replaced this year after the originals had deteriorated in Breaker Bay’s wild weather. Nests built by local penguins constantly full and the population of the penguins had increased in recent years, Ahipene-Mercer said.

A Penguins Best Friend Turns Into Movie

September 15, 2015

Mass penguin attacks on Middle Island by wild foxes seemed a frequent ordeal for a penguin loving town near the island on the coast of Victoria, Australia – until a local farmer came up with a canine solution.

It seemed unlikely, but it worked.  Now the use of Maremma sheepdogs to guard the colony of penguins has become one of Warrnambool’s most unusual features and a world first in conservation practice.783707-dog

Warrnambool council manager and dog-handler Peter Abbott said the program began in 2006 after plummeting penguin counts. “It got to a point where the colony was about to be wiped out,” he said.

The small island is just a few hundred yards from the shore, wadeable for humans and, as the locals discovered, swimable for foxes.

However, while animal-lovers can visit the dogs at the town’s maritime village, fraternizing with the public is a controlled exercise. They need to remain working dogs to remain effective on the job, said Abbott.
“The dogs stay on the island through the penguin breeding season at summertime and they stay there overnight of course by themselves. And also make sure people don’t go to the island as well.” Penguin numbers have increased to about 180 after the Maremma project was launched.
The success of using the Italian breed has spurred a multi-million dollar movie to be made and named in honor of the first dog guardian named Oddball.


“We went from about 800 penguins, down to just four.”

The current pair of patrol pooches, sisters named Eudy and Tula, live on Middle Island to guard the Little penguins from predators such as foxes and wild dogs.

Socially Awkward Penguin Gets More Awkward

September 11, 2015


Socially Awkward Penguin is arguably one of the most recognizable memes on the Internet. The blue-backgrounded image of the off-balance penguin — superimposed with funny text — has been plastered across every message board, forum and social network on the Web. It’s an inside joke. An icon. A mascot, even a penguin.

It’s also the intellectual property of believe it or not National Geographic, which — awkward! — suddenly wants Internet users to pay up for posting it.

In the past year, the company’s licensing agency, Getty Images, has “pursued and settled” multiple infringement cases involving Socially Awkward Penguin, it confirmed to The Post. All of those actions were carried out in secret, with blogs and other posters agreeing to non-disclosure.

But over the summer, when Getty attempted to collect almost $900 in licensing fees from a German blog, its parent site, getDigital, published Getty’s letters online. And the ensuing outrage has sparked a wide-ranging debate about what Internet creativity, ownership and culture should look like.

“The Awkward Penguin is not just a random image we stole from Getty’s database, but one of the most well-known Internet memes,” the company protested in its blog post. Said Bastian Krug, the online marketing manager at getDigital: “We have no idea why they chose us.”

But, Getty is an unusually powerful player — and Socially Awkward Penguin, is a singularly ubiquitous, beloved image. The goofy-looking Adelie penguin was originally photographed in Antarctica by the veteran photojournalist George Mobley. (Mobley, 80, has retired to Panama, so we’ve no idea what he makes of his meme.) It took off online in 2009, when someone on 4chan thought to add the blue background and slap on captions that describe universally awkward settings: “hold the door … they’re too far away,” or “watch a movie with your family … there’s a bedroom scene.”

Since then, Socially Awkward Penguin has appeared in or on advertisements, ties, shot glasses, Denny’s GIFs and baby onesies. You can buy the Awkward Penguin iPhone app for 99 cents, if you’re so inclined. A popular Tumblr blog, called “F— Yeah Socially Awkward Penguin,” has spent six whole years chronicling the meme, one of the innumerable blogs and Web sites to republish, remix and re-share it.

Penguins As Job Bait

September 11, 2015

Government officials in the Falkland Islands are hoping that a photograph of two penguins might encourage a UK lawyer to apply for a job opening managing courts in the Falkland Islands.

The Falkland Islands Government has attached the penguin picture to a job advertisement next to the question “Looking for Something Different?”  Since there are many times more penguins in the Falklands than people.

The Penguin Post has learned that Falkland officials have advertised the new Head of Courts and Tribunal Services job, which pays between £38,000 and £53,000 a year, in London-based legal magazine Counsel.


Penguin Pictures To Make Pictures

September 11, 2015

The Penguin Post has learned that Chinese internet giant Tencent Holdings Limited announced that it has established Penguin Pictures to lead its movie production effort. Penguin Pictures plans to invest in 10 to 15 movies every year.  No word yet on whether Penguin Pictures will make movies about penguins.


According to Chinese media reports. Penguin Pictures has already jointly produced and invested in around ten movies, including the Little Door God, an animation film produced by venture-backed Light Chaser Animations.

It’s A Rockin Hopper Boy

September 11, 2015

The Penguin Post has learned that the gender of the Shedd Aquarium’s newest addition, a baby rockhopper penguin that hatched in June, has been determined and it’s a…boy.Rockhopper-Penguin-Chick_2-300x200

Animal care staff at the Shedd confirmed that Chick No. 23, as he is still known, is a male through a genetic test conducted during a recent check-up, according to a statement from the aqaurium, since there are no observable sex differences in rockhopper penguins.

The chick hatched June 9, and has already nearly reached his full adult height of about 18 inches, according to the aquarium staff. He currently weighs about 4.5 pounds, up from 2 ounces when he hatched.

The penguin chick has been exploring his habitat on his own, learning to swim by himself, and accepting food from trainers after being fully weaned from his parents, and now that his gender has been determined he should be named soon (as chick #23 is not really a cool name).

Rockhopper penguins are considered a vulnerable species. The Shedd is currently home to more than 30 and has been part of a breeding program since 1991.


Penguin Monogamy and Separation

September 9, 2015

With its spiky head plumage and intense red eyes, the southern rockhopper penguin (Eudyptes chrysocome, seen above) looks more like a punk guy with attitude than a committed monogamous penguin partner. But these males mate for life, reuniting with the same female year after year during mating season. Despite their monogamous mating patterns, however, the penguins really don’t spend much time together,  according to a new study. Using GPS trackers mounted to the penguins’ legs, scientists monitored 16 Rockhoppers from a colony in the Falkland Islands over the course of a mating season.

sn-penguins_2 The data show that males arrived at the nesting site approximately 6 days before their female counterparts and stayed about 6 days longer. However, the short mating season means the pairs are only united for about 20 days a year. And when they were separated, it was usually by a large distance: During the winter months, partners were separated by an average distance of about 400 miles, and one pair was observed as far as 1800 miles apart, the team reports online today in Biology Letters. Despite the large spatial segregation, their habitats were quite similar, ruling out the possibility that partners are spending the winter months apart because of sex-based differences in habitat or food preference. So why don’t the birds just stick together? So far it’s still a mystery, but the team speculates that if the penguins arrived at and left the nesting site at the same time, they’d be much more likely to spend the winter together. But because the females show up late and leave early, the problem of finding one another after a week of dispersing through the open ocean might not be worth it—it’s just easier to just meet back at the nesting site next year.

Penguin Mart Robbed

August 28, 2015

Milford, N.H. The Penguin Post has learned that police are looking for a man who robbed the Penguin Mart convenience store in Milford at gunpoint Tuesday, Aug. 18, after hitting the store clerk on the back of the head with a handgun and then driving south toward Massachusetts on a black motorcycle. The suspect is described as being tall, black and white, with a medium build and a waddle.

The store is at 738 Elm St., and police say the suspect took a quantity of cash and three cartons of Newport Menthol and one carton of Marlboro Menthol cigarettes before traveling west on Elm Street to Route 101 west and then south on Route 31. The employee suffered a minor head laceration. Police were called at about 5:06 p.m.


According to the store’s deli clerk who gave her name as Kris, the suspect had asked the clerk for an item and when he turned around to get it, the suspect hit him on the head with his gun, demanded cash, then told the man to lay on the floor and left the building.


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