Penguin Thief Caught On Tape

It’s no news to the Penguin Post that penguins pilfer nest building and courtship materials from other penguins. About 15 years ago I was personally presented with rocks by an unsuspecting “smitten” African penguin during courtship season inside the penguin house at the Baltimore Zoo.

Eric presented with a "hot" rock by an unsuspecting suiter at the Baltimore Zoo.

In this latest caught on film episode, this time involving penguins a bit further south of Baltimore an adult male Adelie penguin has been charged with grand theft rock. The suspect was last seen on Ross Island, Antarctica by a BBC film crew. Video evidence clearly shows the suspect repeatedly snatching stones from his neighbor’s nest. The one-and-half-foot-tall suspect was last seen wearing what appeared to be a tuxedo, unfortunately so were 250,000 other penguins in the area. Obviously a police line-up is out of the question. The pilfering penguin was caught on tape by a film crew working on the documentary Frozen Planet. The crew has spent the last four months on Ross Island. Penguins regularly steal stones from each other, but catching one in the act was hard to come by for cameraman Mark Smith because of the constant Antarctic anarchy of the penguin colony. For one thing, curious penguins kept peeking directly into the lens of his camera in an obvious attempt to shield the penguin thieves from the camera. “It’s appealing at first, but when it happens for the hundredth time as you’re trying to get the shots you need, you start to lose patience” (or get suspicious),  said Smith in an interview with the BBC. “It’s a testament to Mark’s patience and presence of mind, that he managed to leave the camera running and capture that moment,” Jeff Wilson, director of the shoot, told the BBC.Male penguins build their nests from stones to keep eggs safe and from the run-off of melting ice. The male with the biggest nest (the most stones) gives the greatest survival advantage to his offspring and is therefore also likely to get the penguin princess of his dreams. It may be where the envious saying comes from “that penguins got stones”.  Thus far the Penguin Police has yet to apprehend the pilfering penguin as no Adelie has waddled forward to press charges.

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