Lavender = Penguin Passion?

A diamond may be a girl’s best friend, but in the African penguin world the females have far simpler tastes. It seems they’re extremely partial to sprigs of a plant found in many South African gardens: lavender, and the Penguin Post has learned that that’s certainly the case for the penguin guests at Shaka Sea World in Durban, South Africa.  Here it seems the plant is not coveted for its oils or culinary qualities, but rather as part of the penguins courtship ritual, where male penguins will present their female perspective partners with sprigs of lavender, supplied by Sea World staff, as material with which to build their nests.  In fact, this aromatic plant may have played a factor in the success of the breeding program at Sea World – more than 40 chicks between 2008 and 2011. The unusual practice – believed to be a world first – began four years ago at Shaka Sea World as part of an experiment to see which nesting materials penguins liked. Shaka Sea World director Judy Mann says the penguins are quite particular about their nests, so they usually spend quite some time searching for the right materials as they spend about 40 days sitting on the nest incubating their eggs. Incidentally, both the male and female are equally involved, and as we all know these penguins are monogamous. A staff member innocently suggested they add lavender to the nest making materials – and the rest is history. “The smell of the lavender calms the penguins down,” says Mann, “and lavender has some very strong antiseptic, anti-bacterial agents in it, so it helps to keep the nests clean – and (obviously) the penguins love it.” Mann says they’ve shared their lavender success story with other scientists at two international conferences. “And whether the lavender has helped our breeding program success we’re not sure, but it certainly seems to be one of the factors. “Love is in the air and lavender is helping. “So penguin loving guys, you may have a new strategy in your own courtship ritual –  lavender.

Thanks for the lavender.

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