The Penguin Post has learned that Fat Boy the African black-footed penguin turned 32 years old yesterday at Tampa’s Gulf World Marine Park, and yes, he’s the oldest penguin in the park. The celebration kicked off with a meet and greet with the birthday boy. Gulf World also auctioned off a piece of artwork drawn by Fat Boy himself by waddling over paint and then onto a canvas leaving some colorful penguin footprints.African black-footed penguins usually live into their mid-20’s in the wild. But Fat Boy’s trainers say he won’t stop waddling anytime soon! “Fat Boy has excellent care by our veterinarian Dr. Sags,” Gulf World’s Marketing Coordinator Sam Tuno said. “He is monitored very closely, and he also is given laser therapy weekly for his arthritis. So he lives a very great life. He doesn’t have predators, so he has been able to live much longer than the average penguin.” FYI, Fat Boy is not named because of his weight, but after a former Gulf World owner whose favorite model of Harley is called Fat Boy.
This wonderful video is from SANCCOB’s Penguin Release near Cape Town, South Africa on African Penguin Awareness Day. There are only 2% of these penguins still in the wild and their numbers have plummeted in the past decades.
Emperor penguins eat, sleep and breed in one of the harshest environments in the world — icy Antarctica, in temperatures that can dip below -40 in the winter. It would be easy to assume that they have the thickest, densest feathers in the bird world.
But the Penguin Post has learned that a new study reveals that’s not the case — and that penguin coats are much more complex insulating structures than previously believed.
The findings, published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B, could lead to a better understanding of penguin physiology — and perhaps one day inspire makers of insulating materials.
Lead author Cassondra Williams, a comparative biologist at UC Irvine, said she first became interested in this question when she and her colleagues read in popular media and elsewhere that penguins had the highest feather density among birds — but they couldn’t find an original source for that statement.
“It just seemed like somebody said it, and it got repeated and repeated,” Williams said.
The numbers in the literature related to the penguins’ contour feathers — the stiff, shapely plumes that resemble those used in quill pens. The contour feathers encase the body and the insulating layers below, keeping the cold water out and maintaining the body’s sleek profile. Estimates on these feather densities were all over the place — some said there were 11 feathers per square centimeter; others said there were around 46.
But Williams and her coauthors had access to the bodies of penguins that had died on the ice, and they decided to put the mystery to rest, using three different birds. They soon found that counting penguin feathers was no easy task.
“Anytime we would try to even pull out a feather or separate the feathers with just our fingers, a lot of downy bits would come up,” she said, resulting in “a lot of tiny bits of downy feathers flying in the air.”
So the researchers snipped off the feathers — as if giving the birds a close haircut — and then counted the clipped feather shafts.
To their surprise, they found that while the feather density varied slightly from penguin to penguin, the contour feather density was around 9 per square centimeter — less than a fourth as many as described in many previous papers.
And the emperor penguin definitely did not have the highest density of contour feathers in the bird world, they added: The white-throated dipper’s feather density is more than six times higher.
But a big surprise lay beneath those contour feathers. Penguins, as it turns out, have several types of feathers, including after-feathers — little downy bits that are attached to the contour feathers — and plumules, downy feathers that are attached directly to the skin. The emperor penguins had about four times as many downy plumules as contour feathers, so the plumules probably play a major part in the penguins’ insulation.
Strangely, few papers had ever mentioned the presence of these plumules and the role they play, Williams said.
Nor did other scientists seem to notice even tinier feathers called filoplumes, which are hard to see without a microscope. These tiny feathers, which look like long stems with barbs at the very end, are used by flying birds to help sense when their plumage is disheveled, so they can groom it back into a more aerodynamic shape.
Though this idea hasn’t been tested, it’s possible that these penguins are using filoplumes to keep their contour feathers streamlined to minimize drag in the water.
The findings may cause scientists to modify their understanding of how penguin bodies work and how they move. For example, researchers have long thought that penguins store air in their insulating feather coats so that they can release tiny bubbles that allow them to further reduce drag as they swim. Williams said these delicate, downy plumules could produce even tinier bubbles than the contour feathers, improving that drag reduction even more.
We are shocked and sad to report that Noodles, one of the Magellanic penguins living at Aquarium of the Pacific, died Wednesday unexpectedly. The Aquarium announced the penguins death Thursday in a statement, saying employees were shocked and saddened by the penguin’s death. Noodles’ body was discovered Wednesday morning in its burrow, although the penguin had not appeared to have been ill.
Noodles hatched in 2002 and came to the Aquarium in 2011. He was mated to another penguin named Patsy at the Aquarium and the pair’s chicks, named Paddles and Mattson, hatched in 2014. Also, that same year, Noodles popularity at the aquarium soared with the publication of a popular children’s book about a penguin called Noodles & Albie.
Results of a necropsy performed to determine the cause of Noodles’ death may be known to Aquarium personnel in about one month. The loss of Noodles happened as Aquarium personnel are also preparing to euthanize another penguin, dubbed Elvis, who has been afflicted with a neurological ailment.
“Dealing with both of these losses during the same time period has saddened all of us. We will greatly miss Noodles and Elvis,” Aquarium vice president of animal husbandry Perry Hampton said in a statement.
In other Guinness Book Of World Record news. The Penguin Post has learned that Birgit Berends had amassed a collection of 11,062 different penguin-related items as of March 14, 2011. From Germany, she started her collection at the age of 18 when she was inspired by the animated series Pingu. Her very first penguin dates back to her days in elementary school, and a few of the penguins in her collection comes from us at the Penguin Gift Shop.
The Penguin Post has learned that a call was recently made to the penguin loving citizens Rockingham in south western Australia to help break a Guinness World Record for the most people dressed as penguins in one place, and we’re happy to report the record was met as 506 people dressed in penguin costumes climbed aboard ferries and descended on Penguin Island on Saturday.
Participants ranged from young penguin lovers to seniors in their penguin costumes, as they caught ferries to Penguin Island which is located just offshore for the City of Rockingham’s first Guinness World Records attempt.
Rockingham Mayor Barry Sammels said five councillors from the City attended in costume to support the event. “Thank you to the Youth Advisory Council for launching this idea,” he said. “It is great to support something fun for the community, something a little different and a little quirky.
It took seven ferry trips to transport all the penguin people over to the island. To qualify for the attempt, all participants had to wear a full penguin costume including a head piece with a beak attached, black and white body suit and webbed feet, and we’re happy to say that Penguingiftshop.com provided more than a few of the costumes.
All participants had to be filmed arriving on the island and filmed while two independent witnesses counted each penguin. All photographic and written evidence will be provided to Guinness World Records and will take up to eight weeks to be ratified. The record is then uploaded on to their website.
The Penguin Post has learned that the oversized flying penguins “Puddles” and “Splash” finally made it to the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta, with not a minute to spare. The two penguin special shape balloons and “Pirate Ship,” one of the largest hot-air balloons in the world, disappeared more than a week ago. As the fiesta got underway, the balloons’ pilots frantically searched for them, but nary a penguin squawk nor pirate’s “Arrrr” could be heard.
British pilot and owner Andrew Holly said Friday night that the balloons were shipped from Bristol, England, in August. “We checked on their progress, and the shipping company gave us confirmation that they were delivered Sept. 24 to Balloon Fiesta Park,” he said. Holly and the other pilots, Andy Collett and Lee Hooper, arrived on the Friday before the fiesta started, only to discover that the balloons were nowhere to be found. To make matters worse, they were not getting much response from the shipping company, which Holly declined to name.
“We were pretty angry. It was the perfect weekend, and we lost a lot of publicity and good flying,” he said of the first weekend. “We were hoping maybe they were in a warehouse in Albuquerque.” On Monday, Holly and his crew spent the day trying to trace the location of the balloons. “Finally, the shipping company responded and said they had been in New York and were in transit to Albuquerque and would be here Tuesday.”
Meanwhile, Holly and crew had a little lighthearted fun by recording and posting a video modeled after a missing child appeal. “This is a direct appeal to the good people of Albuquerque to help us find our missing penguins … . We are particularly concerned for their safety as the Exclusive Ballooning Pirate Ship was also seen in the vicinity making its way to Albuquerque. … Puddles, Splash, if you can hear us, we are not angry with you and you are not in trouble; we just miss you and want you to come to Balloon Fiesta Park here in Albuquerque.”
Finally, on Wednesday, the shipping company told Holly that the balloons were in Los Angeles. “At that point, I got British lawyers involved, and suddenly the shipping company was helpful and they had the balloons overnighted to Albuquerque.”
Not quite the happy ending. “A lot of things were damaged,” particularly the envelope of the Pirate Ship, “which looks like a forklift went through the travel bag,” said Holly. Still Puddles, Splash and Pirate Ship were able to inflate for the Friday morning Special Shapes Rodeo and the Friday night Special Shapes Glowdeo after temporary repairs were made.
Which just goes to show, you can’t keep a good penguin down, even in the face of pirates.
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.
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.
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.”
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 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.