Archive for April, 2014

Introducing The Penguin Cam!

April 25, 2014

The Penguin Post has learned that on World Penguin Day, which takes place today, scientists have announced that they are hoping that satellite-enabled cameras can help keep track of penguins as the birds waddle through the coldest reaches of Antarctica.

Before, Tom Hart, a penguinologist (yes, that is his real title) from the University of Oxford, had to brave the frigid weather to collect penguin pictures from unconnected cameras as he sought to monitor the birds’ migration patterns and get a better idea of how they are affected by climate change, overfishing, disease and pollution.  The average temperature in Antarctica in winter, one of the continent’s two seasons, is minus 30 degrees Fahrenheit.

Hart says he enjoys working in the field. But solar-powered cameras that send out photos via satellite could help him collect more data, more efficiently. “There are regions we can get to regularly in Antarctica, but this is about pushing the boundaries to those very remote areas that you can’t access every year,” he said.

Now, instead of manually collecting files, he can access them online through the satellite network built by Iridium, a global telecommunications company. The current set-up on Antarctica’s Yalour Islands involves three cameras that transmit photos via a short-range wireless link to a central hub, which then sends the photos — along with location data, battery life information and a temperature reading — to a central server. The cameras can be triggered with a timer or motion detector, and take two photos seconds apart to give researchers a sense of motion. Eventually, the technology could be sold or leased to researchers in other hard-to-reach places, or even to security personnel who want to monitor national parks for poachers.

“Imagine telling researchers that they don’t have to take a 12-hour flight, then spend eight hours on a boat, and then take a dingy ride to a small island to collect a memory card that might or might not be empty,” Tells Jonathan Pallant, a senior engineer at Cambridge Consultants, who designed the camera.penguin4_5f04591faaac863b1a53b62865009dcd.nbcnews-ux-520-360

“If instead you tell these people you can get these pictures sent straight to your phone within minutes of them being taken, that is something they are very interested in,” he said. If the satellite-enabled cameras can survive a year on the Yalour Islands, home to thousands of Adelie penguins, the team hopes to test them for longer periods of time in even harsher parts of Antarctica. Eventually, even couch potatoes might be able to browse photos of wild animals beamed in from the Earth’s most remote areas on their laptops.

“Obviously, this is something that has to roll out gradually,” said Marion Campbell, program director at Cambridge Consultants. In the long run, however, the plan is to make this technology widely available, she said. “We want to make this a product that can be installed in much greater numbers all around the world.”



 

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It’s World Penguin Day

April 25, 2014

Once again it’s April 25, and we at Penguin Place all know that April 25th is World Penguin Day.  About 20 years ago we found out from researchers from McMurdo Station in Antarctica that the 25th of April every year is when they noticed the Adelie penguins near their base would appear from the sea, returning on the same day each year from their annual northward migration.   Adelies will migrate away from Antarctica proper in the fall season and won’t return to their snowy colonies until the following spring (April 25th).  Each fall when the sun hits a certain angle low in the sky the Adelies en-mass dive into the frigid waters answering their nature’s call to migrate.  Although not a migration in the literal sense they will swim north a few hundred miles where they will stay among the floating icebergs that act as Adelie islands, feasting on krill and other penguin delicacies.

Penguin facts you should know on World Penguin Day:

Penguins are found in Antarctica, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Chile, Peru, the Falkland Islands, and the Galapagos Islands. Penguins are undoubtedly the world’s most popular bird – think of Happy Feet, March of the Penguins, Pingu and to name a few uses in popular culture. These charismatic flightless birds are funny to watch on land but are graceful and rapid in water. They occur only in the seas of the Southern hemisphere; there are seventeen species of penguin ranging from the Galapagos to Antarctica.

Volunteer Point on the Falkland Islands is the world’s largest accessible king penguin colony with 1000 pairs of breeding penguins.

Unlike many other penguins which get around obstacles by sliding on their bellies, Rockhoppers will try to jump over them as their name suggests. Rockhopper penguins are the smallest of the Falkland penguins and they come to the Falklands to breed on cliff tops in October. 70% of the world’s Rockhopper population is in the Falklands.

The macaroni penguin is probably the most abundant penguin species in the world; the estimated world population exceeds 11 million pairs.

The gentoo penguin is the third largest species of penguin after the emperor and king penguin.

Magellanic penguins ( named after Ferdinand Magellan) are also known in the Falklands as the jackass penguin because of their braying call. They arrive in September but leave in April to migrate as far as Brazil. They breed in underground burrows, up to 6 meters deep, providing effective protection from predators and the harsh weather.

The Galapagos Penguin is the only penguin specie that ventures north of the equator in the wild.

Penguins can drink sea water.

Penguins can dive to a depth of 1,850 feet (565 meters). Deeper than any other bird.

Penguins are good listeners. They can find a family member in a crowd of 80,000.

Penguins spend 75% of their life at sea.

Noodles and Albie Penguin Book Going To Press

April 23, 2014

It’s been a long time coming, but the delightful picture book Noodles and Albie (Small Batch Press 2014) is finally going to press this week and should be available to the penguin loving public by the beginning of May.  noodleswithparents

The story by (yours truly) Eric Bennett with beautiful watercolor illustrations by Liz Bannish is the tale of Noodles, a young penguin who’s afraid of the water and his feisty fishy friend Albie.  A preview of the hardcover, 32 page picture book, with 14 illustrations has so far been met with rave reviews (and why not).  See below.

“Who doesn’t love penguins? Kids of all ages will fall head over flippers for Noodles and his undersea adventure with his fishy friend Able! Charmingly illustrated with beautiful, detailed watercolors by Liz Bannish”
Michael Chesworth- Crashbangboom Books

 

“Liz Bannish’s watercolor illustrations delight in Noodles & Albie’s sheer cuteness. A sweet, fun story by Eric Bennett of penguins and friendship.”
 Gersh Kuntzman – New York Daily News

 

“Bennett and Bannish’s debut is an adorable story that is beautifully illustrated. A delightful read for penguin loving parents and children from start to finish.”
 Barbara Miller – Collection Curator Museum Of Moving Images

noodlesswims

Mystic Penguins Get Their Feathers Wet

April 23, 2014

The Penguin Post has learned that three African penguin chicks, all hatched in January of this year, took their first swim yesterday after 13 weeks of huddling under their parents for warmth and nurturing. The penguin parents take turns attending to their babies and are very protective.

 Mystic Aquarium’s newest additions took to the water on Tuesday.

Mystic Aquarium’s newest additions took to the water on Tuesday.

Once the penguins are 50 days old, they are removed from their nests and taught how to hand feed four times a day. By the end of the month, the aquarium’s new full grown penguins will be showing off their weatherproof dark grey feathers. Trainers at Mystic Aquarium form a unique bond with the young chicks in an effort to establish trust. Trainers also introduce the chicks to a small spray of water to get them ready for their first swim. All of the baby penguins will be given wing identification beads – one to signify birth order and another to represent gender.  Since 1997, Mystic Aquarium has participated in the African Penguin Species Survival Plan (SSP), where they have hatched 19 chicks as part of the program.

Rare Penguin Rescue In New Zealand

April 23, 2014

The Penguin Post has learned that a small group of endangered baby yellow-eyed penguins are being successfully raised on Canterbury’s Banks Peninsula in New Zealand. The south-eastern shores of the Banks Peninsula in southern New Zealand are home to a very small population of about 20 adult endangered yellow-eyed penguins, and several juvenile birds. However six yellow-eyed penguin chicks have been successfully raised this breeding season, an improvement on five the previous season.

One of six endangered yellow-eyed penguin chicks living on Banks Peninsula.

One of six endangered yellow-eyed penguin chicks living on Banks Peninsula.

The Wildside Project – a collaboration between the Banks Peninsula Conservation Trust, landowners, Christchurch City Council, Department of Conservation, Environment Canterbury and the Josef Langer Trust – aims to improve the general ecology of the area. The project team trap nonindigenous predators to protect the penguin’s breeding grounds as the birds are incredibly sensitive to predators, including cats, rats, possums and ferrets.

The Banks Peninsula Conservation Trust supply and monitor more than 700 traps on the 13,500 hectare Wildside Project catchment. Wildside coordinator Marie Haley said it was rewarding to see the peninsula penguins doing so well. ”With ongoing predator control we hope the birds will have a safe winter and have another successful breeding season next year.”

The project staff and volunteers also monitor the penguins throughout the seasons. All the yellow-eyed penguins are micro-chipped to monitor where the bird was born, and if it has survived its time at sea. If a chick shows signs of being underweight or illness, it is taken to a veterinarian.  This season Hornby Vets treated three of the chicks for injuries and dehydration. Veterinarian Susan Shannon said it could be a long, slow process to get severely debilitated penguins up to weight. After rehydrating, they are fed homemade fish smoothies, and later whole fish with added vitamins until they are a safe weight to be released.  Haley said the successful breeding season on Banks Peninsula was a relief for the Wildside team as yellow-eyed penguins on the Otago Peninsula colonies were hit by a “starvation event” resulting in only 70 chicks surviving, compared with 200 the previous year.

Penguin Dance Craze Sweeps The World (Sort Of)

April 22, 2014

Could the world’s latest dance craze be on its way from one of the most conservative nations on the planet, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia?   The Penguin Post has learned that a leading Arab newspaper seems to think so. Al Arabiya reports that the “penguin dance” is becoming enormously popular among Saudi youth. Take a look:

The very simple and repetitive dance seems to be a hybrid of those old wedding standbys, the conga line and the hokey pokey, meshed with the kiddie birthday party standard, the bunny hop. But Al Arabiya goes further, saying the moves have their origins in Finnish folklore. The dance’s popularity is being noted across social media.

An Albanian man posted a video that now has more than 620,000 views. He claims he created the dance for his sister’s wedding last year.

A deeper dig found that the penguin dance was circulating around the Internet four years ago and has been celebrated from Turkey to Romania. (“This song is danced in every house in Romania,” reads the introduction to the video.)

In the end, one video we found might represent the dance’s true online origin, just by virtue of its popularity. We believe it’s from the tiny Baltic state of Macedonia. It was uploaded to YouTube in August 2010 and viewed almost 2 million times. This roughly equals the population of the country.

 

Now let’s get to it: Here’s how you do the penguin dance.

Steps 1 & 2: Kick to the left with your left foot, then step back to the middle.

Steps 3 & 4: Kick to the right with your right foot, then step back to the middle.

Step 5: Jump forward with both feet (just a few inches).
Step 6: Jump backward with both feet (again, just a few inches).
Steps 7 & 8: Jump forward three times with both feet.

Repeat until you keel over from dehydration or you can no longer stand some drunken reveler’s hands caressing your hips. Enjoy.

 

 

Penguin Chick Rescue Project

April 10, 2014

The Chick Bolstering Project is a bit of a strange name for an organization that saves baby penguins,  but odd name or not it actually does rescue endangered baby penguins — and lots of them too over in South Africa. This penguin rescue project is a partnership with the Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds (SANCOB), the South African government, and others.  In the past six months, they’ve rescued more than 800 endangered African penguin chicks from starvation. Does that mean it’s time for a cuddle party?!  Perhaps. But, this is serious business for the endangered African Penguin.baby-penguin-chick-cared-for

The Penguin Post thinks this is more than just a cute, cuddly project as African penguins have been increasingly endangered for a few years now, and their situation grows more precarious every season.  In fact in the past 80 years, the African penguin population has shrunk 97.5 percent, because of overfishing, human encroachment, oil spills and climate change which has eliminated their food sources and nesting sites. rescued-african-penguin-chick

In many cases food has become so scarce that in recent years, parent African penguins were abandoning their little ones because the chicks were too small or sick from lack of food. The Chick Bolstering Project hand-rears these abandoned chicks, helps them bulk up a little, and releases them three months later.  Well done.

Penguin Center in Detroit Begins To Take Flight

April 10, 2014

The Penguin Post has learned that yesterday, The Detroit Zoo announced that contractors will break ground on the $26 million Polk Penguin Conservation Center in May.  DBusiness reports that this project will last 18 months and is the largest project ever undertaken by the zoo. The new exhibit will be located on 2.1 acres near the zoo’s entrance in Royal Oak and is expected to increase attendance by 100,000 people each year.  Below is an artists rendering of the soon to be new Penguin House.AR-140419992

Same Sex Irish Penguin Couple

April 2, 2014

The Penguin Post has learned that in a country where homosexuality was only made legal as recently as 1993 Ireland’s first gay penguin couple have set up a nest together in the country’s only gentoo penguin colony. The same-sex pair, Penelope and Missy, are exhibiting all the signs of a courting couple in their  polar ice home in Dingle’s Oceanworld.

They are following in the footsteps of a number of famous international same-sex penguin couples including long-time pair, Roy and Silo, from the Central Park Zoo in New York City, along with a King penguin couple in a Danish zoo which became adoptive fathers to a chick from an abandoned egg.

The Irish duo are one of five couples which have paired off for the breeding season at the polar exhibition which mimics the icy conditions at the South Pole in the Kerry Aquarium. The head penguin keeper, Kate Hall, said same-sex couples are not unheard of in the penguin world, although it is usually two males who pair off. “The ones in Central Park are icons for the gay community over there,” said Ms Hall. “They have a lot of fondness and affection for them. “It’s definitely not an unusual occurrence although this time it’s two females.”

She said Missy and Penelope have been displaying all the signs of a courting couple in their enclosure, which is home to a dozen of the black and white creatures. “The thing penguins do to show they like each other is they bow to each other and they are doing that. “When they come into breeding season, they do it to the penguin of their choice and it reinforces the bond between them.

“It is very sweet to watch.”GayPenguins_large