Archive for April, 2011

Mr. Popper’s Penguins are Really Penguins

April 30, 2011

As Director Mark Waters tells it to the Penguin Post, he decided early in pre-production that he didn’t want to rely totally on CGI special effects penguins for his family film, “Mr. Popper’s Penguins,” opening June 17.  Based on the 1938 book by Richard and Florence Atwater, “Popper’s” stars Jim Carrey as a businessman who inherits six penguins. “I thought there was a way to do this thing all CGI, where everything is kind of planned out,” Waters said. “With all CGI you lose the indefinable thing that is adorable about penguins. I wanted to go the other way — let’s do everything we can with live penguins and then challenge the visual effects artists when we are doing CGI stuff to capture that essence, make them match the reality.” That’s where Larry Madrid of the Acton, Calif.-based Birds & Animals Unlimited stepped in as the lead trainer of the eight Gentoo penguins that were bought from the Montreal Biodome to play the six waddling costars in the movie. The 26-inch penguins, Madrid said, were wild and not really friendly initially. For the six weeks prior to filming, Madrid and his trainers worked with the birds to get to know them and figure out what skills each could best perform. And they had to give them a new home while on set — in this case, a walk-in freezer with a pool kept at 36 degrees. Their trainers were only slightly more comfortable. “The trainer freezer I had built next to it was incrementally increased up to 50 degrees,” Madrid said, and the set itself was kept at a chilly 45 to 50 degrees. By using tiny smelt as treats, they taught the penguins how to hit their marks and “get used to being on tables and chairs and eating fish off of plates.”  And they had to instruct Carrey, who had more than his share of experience with animals in his “Ace Ventura” days. “He took to them really easily.” So, how does working with penguins compare? The “differences between penguins and other animals I have worked with are mostly political,” Carrey joked in an email. “Due to the penguins’ communal nature, they tend to lean to the left. There was a seventh penguin that I was really fond of. His name was Hammy and he was really over the top, but he got cut out because with me in the film that would be redundant.”  When it came to feeding the penguins, Carrey said, “I didn’t get any real lessons, but I learned quickly that to a penguin, there is little difference between a fish and a finger.”

Another Royal Wedding In The U.K. Today

April 29, 2011

The Penguin Post has learned that the wedding between William and Kate will not be the only royal wedding in the U.K. today, as at the Dudley Zoo, zookeepers will be holding their own celebrations for their very own Will and Kate today. If we had known in advance we would have sent them our penguin wedding cake topper.

In honor of the royal couple, the zoo staff have named two rare Humboldt penguins William and Kate. The tiny two were hand reared by dedicated keepers after being rejected by their mums during autumn’s cold snap. Since November they have made steady progress in the aviary nursery before gradually being introduced into the main group – a colony of 60-plus parent-reared Humboldts, which is the largest in the UK. Chief executive Peter Suddock said: “We were thinking of names for the youngsters when the royal announcement was made so we called them William and Kate to mark the occasion. “Dudley Zoo incorporates the 11th century Dudley Castle which has strong royal connections; Queen Elizabeths I and II have both visited and several dukes and earls have strong ties with the site, so we felt it fitting to send Prince William and Kate an adoption pack for their namesakes and wish them well for a long and very happy future.” He added: “We’re not quite sure where they will settle once they are fully integrated in the penguin enclosure, so just for fun we have labelled the nesting boxes Clarence House, Buckingham Palace, St James’s Palace and Kensington Palace, to give them a fairly regal choice for their first home.” Visitors to the zoo will be able to watch the big event on a large screen in the Discovery Center and youngsters will have the chance to be princes and princesses for the day with special crowns to commemorate the occasion. Mr Suddock added: “The big screen will relay the wedding celebrations throughout the day, and keeping staff will be taking it in turns across the various animal sections to watch the event.”

The Dudley Zoo's own William and Kate

Penguin Place Mach 5 or 6, or maybe 7

April 28, 2011

Everyone loves to complain.  Unless you’re Jimmy Stewart or Mother Teresa it’s one of the things we do best as a species, and I’m sure you’re very good at it.   For me, I got lots to complain about, be it the Mets or my three-year-old daughter peeing on the carpet this morning.  But, on a professional level regarding Penguin Place I’ve been pretty fortunate.  I love penguins, and how many people get to make a living at what they love?  If you’re curious, you can see the story of Penguin Place in this link.  About 25 years ago I began my penguin odyssey in a little shop in downtown N.Y. at South St. Seaport, and obviously as with everything in life there were some bumps along the way, but all in all, no major complaints.  I left my brick and mortar penguin existence about 10 years ago  dedicating myself to  as my full time gig.   I ran it out of a windowless, former art studio attached to my downtown Brooklyn loft.  No complaints there.  Then about 5 years ago I realized I needed a new, improved, upgraded version of as it been about the same site for 8 years or so,  and the world of on-line retail was passing me by at warp speed.   The only people I had ever worked with regarding Penguin were the folks who designed and maintained my site since its inception way back in 1997.   So, I naturally went to them for the upgrade.  Sure thing, they said.  We can do this for you and then some.  Unfortunately, there had been lots of turnover at this company, and all the folks who worked with the initial start-up were gone.  The company had downsized lots, and my new designer was working on his first commercial website (found this out after the fact). Not good.  Over budget, and way behind schedule it launched months late, with an iceberg of problems at the worst possible time of the year.  Right at the beginning of the holiday season.  It was a disaster, and it appeared that my designer, who was in way over his head when it came to commercial website construction, was incapable of fixing this.  In a panic as October was turning in November I desperately searched for someone, some company who could fix this and fast, and through a friend I found a west coast developer that specialized with Joomla based websites (which is what I had).   They came to my rescue, patched things up in short order, and in turn gained my trust and gratitude.   All good for the time being, but site still needed an upgrade, a new look and some big time changes.  My  west coast peeps now had my confidence  as they helped me in my hour of need, and they impressed me with their organizational skills, cool tech lingo and the multiple on-line teleconference meetings.  They seemed committed and were taking the time to put an upgrade plan together.   But, as one deadline after another came and went, the upgrade never came.  Weeks, turned into months and then the months turned into, well you get the picture.  Then this fall, with traffic and sales down, yet another holiday season approaching, and all talk, no action coming from my web developer, I had a feeling no changes were going to happen and was desperate once again.  Because of the antiquated look and feel of Penguin Place, sales were down and the future looked bleak.  So, fed up with all the delays and broken promises, I turned to a local web designer who I liked and talked a good talk. She was enthusiastic and had great ideas.  But, in the end she turned out to be a wonderful designer, with bad communication skills, and as was the case of my original designer back in N.Y.  she also did not have the skills to put together a commercial website, and without it sales and traffic continued to drop.  The check out page / shopping cart, and many nuanced, yet crucial customer service aspects of Penguin Place were still lacking. Some aspects of the website were even worse than before.  I was frustrated beyond words, as I’m sure many of my long time customers were as they tried to navigate the many speed bumps and dead ends that they faced on penguin place.  We limped through this holiday season, and I knew I needed to find a professional web design company to turn this around once and for all.  My  Penguin Place Igloo needed to be righted.  After interviewing a half dozen companies around the world, in the end I choose a local company called Left Click right here in my adopted home town of Northampton.   In fact their office is only about 150 feet from Penguin Place.  Let, me say first off  they’ve been great. The first step to making Penguin Place whole again was not cosmetic, but only to get penguin place to act and interact like a 21st century commercial website.  Including all the things shoppers take for granted. Get the check out page and shopping cart to work properly, easy customer login,  install  multi-tiered shipping options in plain sight on the check out page, a home page slide show, working pagination arrows (that means you can go from one page to the next within a category), customer service friendly e-mail confirmations and working links, etc.  All the basics.  Next came the cosmetic changes and adding things like customer wish lists and even a penguin birthday club, which takes us to our new look which I’m happy to say we re-launched a few days ago. All this they did within budget and on time.  Great communication, easy to reach, nice people, they know what their doing, good listeners, with good ideas who actually act like they care. And all the time right next door.  So, what I’m saying is as easy as it is to complain, I wanted to say thanks to Left Click.  I wish Penguin Place had found you sooner.

Singing / Dancing Penguin Graduate Is Back!

April 27, 2011

You know it must be getting close to that time of the year with the annual arrival of our Singing / Dancing Penguin Graduate. You and your friends will be astounded and amazed when you see and hear what this happy 15″ tall penguin grad does when you squeeze his flipper. Just stand back or join in as he sings and dances “If You’re Happy and You Know It”.  His song goes on for about a minute, and he does all the corrct movements to the lyrics, including flapping his wings and even jumping up and down.  After a couple of choruses you’ll be happy and you’ll know it too. Simply perfect for the penguin loving grad of all ages. Penguin requires two AA batteries (not included).

UK Penguin To Be Named After Royal Couple

April 27, 2011

The Penguin Post has learned that a penguin hatched on Easter Sunday and abandoned by its mother is to be named after either Kate Middleton or Prince William, in honor of the upcoming royal wedding.  The two-day-old Humboldt chick is being hand-reared by staff at London Zoo who hope the feisty bird will live up to either of its names.  It’s too early for zoo keepers to figure out whether this little penguin is a boy or a girl, so until the gender is determined the grey penguin chick,  is going to be call the gender neutral name Egg.  For the time being the future royal penguin is being fed through a syringe and kept in a incubator, suitably wrapped in a Union flag to keep it warm and prepare it for its regal future.  Staff say the baby penguin was rejected by its mother before it hatched last Sunday.  Adrian Walls, deputy team leader of birds at the zoo, said that tests would be done when the chick is 10 weeks old to find out the gender.  It will then be called Kate if it’s a girl or William if it is a boy.  Mr Walls said: “The penguin is too young to look after itself, so we are hand feeding it.  We are just waiting to find out the sex to give it a proper name and title.” Penguins are one of few animals in the wild which mate for life, so when Egg grows up he could find his own penguin prince, or princess.

Penguin Royalty

Mr. Popper’s Penguins Trailer

April 27, 2011

As we’re only a couple of months away from the long awaited release of Mr. Popper’s Penguin, and today the Penguin Post is happy to announce we got one step closer to the premier with the release of  the international trailer for Jim Carrey’s upcoming “Mr Popper’s Penguins” comedy, which is directed by Mark Waters (Mean Girls) and is set to hit theaters on June 17th. Check out the trailer .

Plot: Tom Popper (Carrey) is a New York real estate developer who tears down beloved landmarks and erects skyscrapers in their place. His one-track mind leaves him estranged from his family, including his wife (Carla Gugino), who has divorced him and moved on to a new relationship. And for years Popper has been out of contact with his “kooky” father, who leaves him with an unusual inheritance: a penguin. The bewildered Popper registers a complaint which is met with the arrival of another five birds. The penguins manage to crack Mr. Popper’s cold exterior, and soon he’s cranking up the air conditioning in his stylish apartment, rolling up the rugs and piling on extra layers of clothes to make his new guests more comfortable.

Penguin Place Up To 2000 Facebook Fans

April 26, 2011

Almost as fast an Emperor Penguin sliding on its belly down a steep and icy Antarctic slope, Penguin Place has been adding new fans (what’s not to like) to our Facebook Page, leading to today’s milestone 2000th Penguin Place FB Fan or friend or like.  Who knows what the right term is anymore?  In any case, the popularity of our Penguin FB page can’t be ignored any longer.  We’ve tried to keep things fun, posting everything from Pittsburgh Penguins hockey results, to how to help Northern Rockhopper Penguins in relation to the latest oil spill in the South Atlantic, to penguin jokes and news, to new Penguin Place products, sales and special offers from our website. It’s been fun, and just a wee bit addictive in light of the positive responses, comments and feedback from fellow penguin lovers the world over. 

Names Selected for a Pair Of Ohio Penguins

April 26, 2011

The Penguin Post has learned that the  two Humboldt penguin chicks born at the Akron Zoo in Ohio over the winter have finally been named after a hotly contested neming contest sponsored by the zoo.  Time to welcome Pez (male) and Niña (female).  More than 1,500 people voted on the pair’s names in a contest recently.  Pez received 523 votes and Niña received 388. Pez is Spanish for “fish,” which is the penguins’ main diet and Niña is Spanish for “little girl.”
One person who entered the right combination was drawn at random and won a behind-the-scenes tour of the penguin exhibit for up to four people.  Pez hatched on Jan. 8, and Niña arrived Jan. 11 — the earliest that chicks have ever hatched at the zoo. It is also the first time in the zoo’s history that two chicks have been reared by the same parents at one time. Pez and Niña are now on exhibit.

Pez is on the left looking right and Nina is on the right looking left.

Everything You Wanted To Know About Penguins

April 26, 2011

Since today is International Penguin Day we at Penguin Place thought we’d put out a simple, fun and sort of complete guide to the wonderful world of penguins courtesy of the wonderful Kidzone Penguin Facts Pages.

Penguins are birds with black and white feathers and a funny waddle.  But unlike most birds, penguins are not able to fly — in the air that is.  Penguins spend as much as 75% of their time underwater, searching for food in the ocean.  When they are in the water, they dive and flap their wings.  It looks just like they are flying!

Penguins are shaped like a torpedo.  Their body is built for the most efficient swimming with their average speed in the water being about 15 miles per hour.
Airborne Penguins
The only time penguins are airborn is when they leap out of the water.  Penguins will often do this to get a gulp of air before diving back down for fish.  Penguins cannot breathe underwater, though they are able to hold their breath for a long time.  They also use their ability to leap out of the water to get from the ocean onto land if there are cliffs or ice flows to deal with.
Penguins spend a lot of time dealing with temperature.  They are warm blooded, just like people with a normal body temperature of about 100 degrees F. So how do they stay warm in the cold places they live and in the icy cold waters? Just like whales, penguins have a layer of fat under their skin called “blubber”.  Overtop of this they are covered with fluffy “down” feathers and overtop of those they have their outer feathers which overlap to seal in warmth.  Penguins rub oil from a gland onto their feathers to help make them waterproof and windproof.
Dinner Time
Penguins eat seafood.  Their main diet is fish, though they’ll also eat squid, small shrimplike animals called “krill” (see photo to the right) and crustaceans. If you look closely at a penguin’s bill you’ll notice a hook at the end, perfect for grabbing dinner.  They also have backward facing bristles on their tongues that helps slippery seafood from getting away. Penguins don’t live near freshwater — at least none that isn’t frozen.  Instead they drink salt water.  They have a special gland in their bodies that takes the salt out of the water they drink and pushes it out of grooves in their bill.  A handy in-house filtration system!
Just a Boy and a Girl…
During the mating season penguins head for special nesting areas on the shore.  The area where penguins mate, nest and raise their chicks is called a “rookery”. When penguins are ready to mate, the male stands with his back arched and wings stretched.  He makes a loud call and struts about to attract a female. When the penguins find a mate, they bond with each other by touching necks and slapping each other on the back with their flippers.  They also “sing” to each other so they learn to recognize each other’s voices. Once a penguin finds a mate, they usually stay together for years — for as long as they have chicks.
Penguins don’t jump, they BOUNCE!
Penguins don’t live in the best habitats for finding nesting material, so they have to make do with what they can find. Rockhopper penguins build their nests on steep rocky areas.  To get there, they hold both feet together and bounce from ledge to ledge (imagine Winnie the Pooh’s Tigger with wings and you’ve got the idea).  These birds can bounce up to 5 feet! Magellanic penguins dig burrows under the ground to form huge “cities” similar to gophers. Adelies and chinstrap penguins use rocks to build their nests.  The perfect rock is a rare commodity for these birds.  They’ll often fight over or steal each other’s stones!

Adelie and Chinstrap Penguins

Penguin Chicks
As soon as the egg is laid (penguins lay one or two eggs at a time), the female dashes out for dinner, leaving the male to watch the nest. When the female returns (it can take up to two weeks for her to come back) it’s the male’s turn to head out for food, leaving the female with the egg. When the chick hatches, it immediately starts calling so that its parents will learn to recognize its voice.
Penguin Predators
Penguins are a food source for a number of marine mammals, especially leopard seals.  These seals hide under ice flows and wait for their prey.  Other marine mammal predators are sea lions and orcas. The penguins aren’t without protection though.  Their white bellies blend with the snow and sunlight making it difficult for an underwater predator to see them.  Penguins are also eaten by a number of birds — for example, the Australian sea eagle and the Skua.  The penguins black backs blend against the dark ocean water, making it more difficult to spot them from above. Penguins also have a number of on-land predators like ferrets, cats, snakes, lizards, foxes and rats.
Playful Penguin Pastimes
Between staying warm, raising chicks, finding food and avoiding predators, a penguin’s life may not sound like much fun.  But penguins have some playful pastimes — many of which are surprisingly similar to human hobbies!
Tobogganing:  Penguins lie on their belly and toboggan through the ice and snow.  This helps them move quickly.
Surfing:  Penguins are often seen surfing through the waves onto land.
Penguin Habitat
There are 17 species of penguin, each slightly different.  Some of the species have nicknames which can cause people to think there are more than 17 species (for example the Little penguin is also known as the Blue penguin).All of the species live in the Southern hemisphere.  Many live at the South Pole on Antarctica.  But some don’t live in such cold places.  They are found on the coasts of South America, Africa, Australia, New Zealand and the Galapagos Islands.  The Emperor penguin is the only species that breeds and nests in Antarctica through the frigid winter.
Adelie Penguins
Adelie penguins are the smallest of the Antarctic penguins.  One way to distinguish them from the other penguins is by their all black head and the white ring around their eye. Adelie penguins were named after the wife of a French explorer in the 1830s.  They are about 2 feet tall and weigh 8 or 9 pounds.  Their diet is mainly fish.
Adelies build their nests of stones on the rocky beaches of Antarctica, jealously guarding and often fighting over the best rocks. There are over 2.5 million breeding pairs living in Antarctica.  They live in groups of about 10,000 birds.

Adelie Penguin

African Penguins
African penguins have a black upside down U-shape on their neck with black speckles on their chest.  They are about 2 feet tall and weigh between 7 and 11 pounds.
African penguins live and breed on the coast of South Africa.  People have hunted these penguins so much that their numbers declined from at least one million to about 150,000.  They are now a protected species, but are still caused trouble by oil spills off the coast of Africa. African penguins are also known as the Blackfoot penguin.
Chinstrap Penguins
Chinstrap penguins get their name from the small black band that runs under their chin.  They are about 2 feet tall and weigh about 10 pounds.  They feed on krill and fish. Chinstrap penguins are the most common penguins with a population of about 13 million.  They often live on large icebergs on the open ocean in the Antarctic region.

Chinstrap Penguin

Emperor Penguins
Emperor penguins are the largest penguin species.  They are nearly 4 feet tall and weigh up to 90 pounds.  Those are BIG penguins! Emperor penguins are easily identifiable by their size and the orange “glow” on their cheeks. Emperor penguins live, year round, in the Antarctic. Temperatures can fall as low as -140 degrees Fahrenheit (-60 degrees Celsius).   Most penguin species lay two eggs at a time, but due to the difficulty of raising chicks in such a harsh climate, the Emperor penguin only lays one egg.

Emperor Penguin

Most penguin species take turns warming the egg, but it’s up to the Emperor penguin dads to do all the work once the egg is laid.  The male stands with the egg on his feet under a brood pouch (for warmth).  He does this for up to 9 weeks, without food, waiting for the chick to hatch.  During this time, the male may lose up to half its body weight. Once the egg hatches, the female returns and the male heads out to the ocean to feed.
Galapagos Penguins
Penguins do not live in the wild in any location in the Northern Hemisphere.
But, one penguin comes close. The northern most colony of penguins are located in the Galapagos Islands.  The Galapagos Penguins can survive close to the equator because the Humboldt current brings cold waters to the islands from the Antarctic.
Gentoo Penguins
Gentoo penguins live on many of the islands of the Antarctic region but the main colony is on the Falklands.  They are about 3 feet tall and weigh about 13 pounds.  Their diet consists of krill and some small fish.  Gentoo penguins are easily identifiable by the wide white stripe over the top of their head.  It runs from one eye to the other.
Gentoo penguins make nests on the inland grasslands.  They pile stones, grass and sticks to create a circular nest.  Like the Adelies and Chinstrap penguins, the Gentoo will also fight over stones for nesting.

Gentoo Penguin

King Penguins
The King penguin is the second largest penguin and looks somewhat like the Emperor penguin.  They are about 3 feet tall and weigh up to 35 pounds. King penguins have orange spots near their ears and on the neck. King penguins mainly eat fish and some squid and crustaceans.  They are found on many sub-Antarctic islands including Crozet, Prince Edward , Kerguelen, South Georgia and Mazquarie Islands. Like the Emperor penguin, the King penguin hatches only one chick at a time.  Their chicks have fuzzy brown feathers for about a year after they are born.

King Penguin and Chick

Macaroni Penguins
“Macaroni” used to be a hairstyle in 18th century England. Didn’t you ever wonder why Yankee Doodle called the feather in his cap, “Macaroni”?  It’s not about pasta, it’s about a penguin!!   The Macaroni penguins were so named by English sailors because the yellow and black feathers sticking out of the side of their heads looked like an 18th century English hairstyle.

Stuck a feather in his cap and called it Macaroni

Magellanic penguins were named after the explorer Ferdinand Magellan who first saw them in 1519 on his first voyage around the tip of South America. Magellanic penguins are about 2 feet, 3 inches tall and weigh 9 pounds.  They are the largest of the warm weather penguins. They live on the coast of the Argentina, Chile and the Falkland Islands. During mating season, Magellanic penguins burrow, forming underground nesting colonies.

Magellanic Penguins

Rockhopper Penguins
Similar to the Macaroni penguins, the Rockhopper penguins have decorative feather tufts on their heads — theirs are yellow in color.  Their most unusual trait is their ability to hop from rock to rock to their nesting places.  They keep both feet together when hopping.  Using this method, they are able to hop up to four or five feet!

Rockhopper and Chick

Yellow-eyed Penguins

The yellow-eyed penguins have a band of yellow feathers going from the bill, circling the eyes and up around the head. The yellow-eyed penguin lives on the coast of New Zealond.  It is the rarest of all penguins due to the deforestation of the New Zealand coastline and the introduction of new predatory species to the island.  Sadly, there are only an estimated 1,500 breeding pairs of yellow-eyed penguins.

The rare Yellow Eyed Penguin of New Zealand

New Look Penguin & Penguin Birthday Club

April 25, 2011

It’s no coincidence that just in time for International Penguin Day, Penguin Place  has ushered in a whole new look for our webbed site.  Including a cool new home page, easy to find categories, smooth as an iceberg navigation,  check out pages and shopping cart upgrades, and smack dab in the middle of our Penguin Place home page is our new Penguin Place Birthday Club.  All you need to do to sign up is enter your birthday in the Birthday Club line when logging in,  then for the entire month of your birthday you’ll get 10% off, and for your initial birthday month order you’ll get a free penguin birthday card and a little special penguin gift just for you.  Not bad for just writing your birthday.

Hooray! The New Look Penguin Place Is Here!