Posts Tagged ‘African Penguins’

Fat Boy The Penguin Celebrates A Birthday

October 21, 2015

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.fat+boyAfrican 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.

Advertisements

African Penguin Awareness Day

October 21, 2015

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.

Year Of The Penguin

October 9, 2015

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.

Penguins are taken on walks through the snow at Asahiyama Zoo twice a day from December to March

Penguins are taken on walks through the snow at Asahiyama Zoo twice a day from December to March

Fishing Ban Helps South African Penguin Chicks

July 8, 2015

The Penguin Post has learned that the survival of endangered African penguin chicks increased by 18% following a trial three-year fishery closure around Robben Island in South Africa, a new study from the University of Exeter has found.
The results, which are published in the Royal Society Journal Biology Letters, indicate that even small ‘no-take zones’ can dramatically improve the survival chances of the endangered penguin species.

The African penguin population is in freefall, with adult survival rates over the last decade desperately low. Although the ban on commercial fishing off Robben Island has boosted chick survival, the long term prospect for the species still remains gloomy.

fishingbanre

Dr Richard Sherley from the University of Exeter said: “One of the major challenges of conserving a mobile species like the African penguin is that once they leave a protected area they are subject to outside pressures and dangers, including poor prey availability.

“Our study shows that small no-take zones can aid the survival of African penguin chicks, but ultimately commercial fishing controls must be combined with other management action if we are to reverse the dramatic decline of this charismatic species”.

African penguins feed on sardines and anchovies but fishing of these species off Cape Town is considered to have contributed to a 69% reduction in penguin numbers between 2001 and 2013.

The species’ worsening conservation status led to experimental fishing closures around four colonies between 2008 and 2014. These were earlier found to reduce penguin foraging effort but a beneficial impact on demographic parameters had not been demonstrated before this study and so the benefits of the closures have been the subject of much debate.

Although this study has shown that the fishery closure around Robben Island has improved chick survival, if the current fishing pressure exerted on sardine in particular continues on the west coast there will still not be sufficient food to allow the penguin population to recover.

Seabirds will often respond to a scarcity of food by skipping or abandoning breeding, opting not to re-lay after losing clutches of eggs, or reducing the amount of food brought to the chicks leading to slow growth, poor chick condition and mortality through starvation. African have shown all of these responses in recent years.

1501 nests were monitored at Robben Island between 2001 and 2013 to determine chick survival rates and a hydro-acoustic survey was carried out to estimate sardine and anchovy biomass.

Real U.K. Penguin Love Stories

November 14, 2014

The Penguin Post has learned that a real live penguin love story is being played out at the Cornish Seal Sanctuary in southern England. Last year millions of British TV viewers watched on anxiously as a young Humboldt penguin Pine was introduced to the Sanctuary’s resident colony in the hope he would pair-up with single female Lola. The blind date was featured on Caroline Quentin’s documentary “Cornwall,” but gooey-eyed viewers never got to see the surprising outcome.

Pine (left) and Yoni at the Cornish Seal Sanctuary

Pine (left) and Yoni at the Cornish Seal Sanctuary

There was indeed a happy ending, but as it transpired…for four of the colony’s residents rather than just two! Lola and Pine liked each other well enough, but it was sad Gilbert – whose original partner Ruby had passed away a year earlier – who stole Lola’s heart. Lola and a thoroughly rejuvenated Gilbert are now inseparable, but there was a further happy development to come … for Pine has also found love, with the sole remaining unattached female Yoni.

“They are the youngest of our birds, and until recently were more concerned with having fun than with romance,” said the Sanctuary’s Eileen Keeling.  “Just lately though our animal care team have noticed the pair indulging in more and more canoodling and mutual preening.”  Together with long-term partners Ivy and Piran, that makes three happy and contented couples. “Seeing their relationship blossom has been a really heart-warming experience,” said Eileen, “and now they are a proper pair it has made our Christmas already, and guaranteed a happy and affectionate festive season for all six of our birds.”

Can Hand Reared African Penguins Be Released In The Wild?

November 6, 2014

Along the Western Cape of South Africa lives a group of endangered African penguins. These penguins breed from February through September, and then moult sometime between September and January. During the moulting period, the penguins are deprived of their waterproof feathers. That’s 21 days in which they’re prevented from diving for food and must rely on stored up fat for nutrition until their new feathers grow in. But if they begin the moult while they still have penguins in the nest, the chicks – who rely on their parents for food – could go hungry.

To help guard against starvation, the Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds (SANCCOB) rescues these so-called “abandoned” penguins chicks whose parents just went and started moulting, leaving their precious babies to slowly starve to death. Once the penguin chicks grow up a bit, SANCCOB releases them back into their breeding colonies. In 2007, they cared for more than 480 such chicks, and nearly twice as many the year before.

shutterstock_225126076

What University of Cape Town animal demographer Richard B. Sherley wanted to know was whether the birds who wound up being released back into the wild fared at least as well as those who were raised by their parents, as nature intended.

In both 2006 and 2007, SANCCOB rescued a number of orphaned Africa penguin chicks. Many of them were starving because their parents began to moult, others were abandoned by their parents after their nest sites became flood, and still others were left alone after their parents themselves had to be rehabilitated due to oiling. Of those brought in for care, 91% were released in 2006, and 73% were healthy enough to release in 2007.

Before being released, many of the birds were banded so that researchers could track their progress. The researchers estimated that 11% of rehabilitated and released penguins were recruited into breeding populations, with around 14% surviving to breeding age.

These may seem like low odds, but they compare favorably to both the likelihood of penguin survival following oil spill-related rehabilitation, and even to the likelihood of survival when penguin chicks are reared by their own parents, free of human intervention.

Half of those who were confirmed breeders had returned to their birth colony, while half had joined other colonies. That suggests that hand-rearing is a viable, if labor-intensive and costly, means to bolster the size of individual penguin colonies. It also suggests that abandoned chicks could be a useful way to help establish new breeding colonies, in better areas. “As the situation for African penguin has continued to deteriorate on the West Coast, plans have been developed to use conservation translocations to establish new breeding colonies in areas of higher prey availability along the South African coast,” write the researchers. Despite the fact that half of penguins in the current study found their way back to their birth colony, penguins aren’t stupid. “Translocated individuals will undertake some prospecting behaviour to evaluate the quality of their new habitat,” Sherley explains. If they’re released into a high-quality site with lots of prey, they might just stay.

It’s not just that penguins are adorable, iconic critters. As a group, seabirds are some of the most endangered birds on the planet. Nearly half of seabird species are declining, with nearly a third having earned a spot on the IUCN Red List. African penguins in particular declined by some seventy percent in the last 15 years, mainly owing to declines in their preferred prey, small baitfish like sardine and anchovy. By combining the hand-rearing of malnourished chicks with the establishment of new colonies at more optimal locations, researchers and conservationists might be able to help ensure a bright, fishy future for these most charismatic of seabirds.

African Penguin Chicks Get A Helping Hand

October 25, 2014

Abandoned African penguin chicks are easy to spot. Their flippers are too long for their bodies. Their chest bones are visible through their newborn plumage. They haven’t been fed by their parents for weeks because the adult birds are molting and unable to hunt in the ocean.

While adult penguins can survive 21 days without food, baby chicks cannot. Under normal conditions, the chicks would be out of their nests and able to survive the fast. But sparse fish populations around the South African shore limit chick’s growth and keep them nesting when adults reach the critical point when they must molt.

Group of African Penguins near Boulders Beach, South Africa.

Group of African Penguins near Boulders Beach, South Africa.

In response, researchers from the University of Cape Town head-reared hundreds of malnourished chicks from penguin colonies Dyer Island, Robben Island and Stony Point at the South African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds in Cape Town. The researchers admitted over 800 penguins in 2006 and nearly 500 in 2007.

“Often, the abandoned chicks we’re bringing up look quite sad for themselves,” lead researcher Richard Sherley said.

Most of the chicks were underweight for their age; researchers fed them a formula of liquidized fish and vitamins.

The penguins were marked with flipped bands then released back into the wild after an average month and a half of human care. The hand-raised chicks were just as likely to survive as their naturally-raised counterparts.

This success is promising for other seabird species facing dwindling populations. So long as the birds don’t attach to their surrogate human parents and can cope with living in captivity, humans raising baby birds could be a solution.

African penguin populations have shrunk by more than 70 percent since 2011, and the species has been classified as endangered since 2012.

Map of Western Cape, South Africa. Black circles depict the location of main African penguin breeding colonies. Chart by Richard B. Sherley, Lauren J. Waller, Venessa Strauss, Deon Geldenhuys, Les G. Underhill and Nola J. Parsons.

Map of Western Cape, South Africa. Black circles depict the location of main African penguin breeding colonies. Chart by Richard B. Sherley, Lauren J. Waller, Venessa Strauss, Deon Geldenhuys, Les G. Underhill and Nola J. Parsons.

“Hand-rearing of African penguin chicks is a valuable conservation tool in light of the declining population,” the researchers conclude in the full study, “Hand-Rearing, Release and Survival of African Penguin Chicks Abandoned Before Independence by Moulting Parents,” which was published Tuesday.

In the South African ecosystem, the baby penguins’ problems can be traced back to fish populations. Sardines and anchovies are African penguins’ main food source. Between rising sea temperatures and overfishing, especially of sardines, there aren’t as many fish to feast on as there were in previous decades.

Less fish means smaller or less frequent meals for the fledgling penguins. As a result, the baby birds are growing slower and are still chicks when their parents begin to molt. Unlike some birds, who shed a few feathers at a time, penguins must replace all their feathers at once. Since they don’t have waterproof feathers while molting, they stay on land and don’t hunt for the entire process.

Hand-rearing the chicks could help conserve the species in the short term, but the current colonies can only support so many penguins.

“We’re putting them back out into the colonies from where they came,” he said. “We’re trying to slow down the decline of colonies that are disappearing very rapidly.”

Sherley is curious how the human-raised penguins would fare if they were released as pioneers of new colonies on different parts of the South African shore.

The South African government is also experimenting with fishing regulations. The now-defunct South African Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism closed fishing around two pairs of islands. The penguin chicks around St. Croix and Bird islands were , and the area will soon be off-limits for fishing permanently. However, data for Robben and Dassen Island were inconclusive, and there is ongoing debate about whether to allow or halt fishing around the second pair of islands.

New Penguins In New England.

July 17, 2014

The five newest penguin chicks at the New England Aquarium have a big job to do — aside from being incredibly adorable.

The Penguin Post has learned that three Little Blue and two African penguin chicks will serve as liaisons for their cousins in the wild and will increase the diversity of their species’s captive population’s gene pool.

Little Blue penguins originate from the southern coastlines of Australia and New Zealand and the African penguins inhabit land along the southern coast of Africa. Little Blues are the smallest species of penguin and have sleek, steel blue feathers. African penguins have yellow stripes on their foreheads in adulthood. feathers when they hatch. The New England Aquarium is one of the only institutions in the United States that has Little Blues, something that Heather Urquhart, penguin exhibit manager for the aquarium, hopes to change.

“There is a lot of interest in getting more of these little guys in zoos and aquariums here,” Urquhart said. “We are working with the Aussies to get more little birds to some other cities.”

The chicks have joined the ranks of only 64 Little Blues in United States zoos and aquariums — 29 of which are housed in the New England Aquarium. The sustainability of such a small population is a big concern, especially with regard to gene diversity and potential growth.

“These birds are teaching zoo- and aquarium-goers about their wild brethren and we want them to be as healthy as possible,” Urquhart said. “We want to not only have a healthy and diverse population in our own aquarium, but for the populations in zoos and aquariums everywhere.”

Urquhart is currently working closely with the Bronx Zoo in New York and the Taronga Zoo in Australia to bring more Little Blues stateside within the next few months.

The African penguins’ captive population is very strong, with about 800 birds living throughout the country, said Urquhart. Their wild counterparts, however, are facing serious challenges caused by climate change.

Dan Laughlin, assistant curator at the New England Aquarium, said the endangered African penguins are seeing a mass exodus of their food source — primarily pilchards and anchovies — because of changing water temperatures in their native areas. Eleven of the 18 species of penguins are endangered.

The 12- and 13-day-old African penguin chicks will join their 41-member colony at around 60 days old. Another African egg is due to hatch in mid-August. Laughlin said all penguin chicks must undergo a few private swimming lessons and weaning from their parents before joining the 85-bird colony at the aquarium. He added that he loves this time of year, and not just because of the chicks’ fuzzy cuteness.

“I love the smell of baby penguins,” he said. “It’s the best smell in the world.”

Little Blue Penguins at New England Aquarium

Little Blue Penguins at New England Aquarium

The Day A Brooklyn Penguin Was Stolen

June 25, 2014
African Penguins at Coney Island Aquarium

African Penguins at Coney Island Aquarium

The Penguin Post has learned that on May 9, 1965 a bunch of teenagers made off with a penguin from the New York Aquarium in Coney Island and then took him for a ride on the subway.  Why would they steal a penguin, you ask?  They never really answered that question because the authorities never caught them, but the simple answer is most likely, why not?

The story goes like this: an MTA policeman was on routine patrol on the subway at Stillwell Avenue when he spots a group of teens hop on his subway car carrying a cardboard box. The kids spot the officer, and calmly leave the train at the next station, but leave the box with the penguin in it behind. The box begins to move getting the officers attention.

Being near the beach the policeman figures at first that it’s a seagull so he picks up the box to take it outside and release it.  Upon opening it and getting nipped  he notices this is not even close to being a seagull. It’s a penguin!

He then secures the box, assumes that this fugitive penguin has come from the aquarium and calls them to check.  Lo and behold the aquarium makes a penguin head count and they find they’re a penguin down, so the officer gets back on the train and a few stops later the penguin was returned safely.

BTW, a pilfered penguin incident happened again at the aquarium in 1967. After that the penguin exhibit was redesigned to keep the penguins in and people out.  The Penguin Post learned all this after stumbling across this fun New York Historical Society video.

 

14th Anniversary Of The Great Penguin Rescue

June 23, 2014

Today marks the 14th anniversary of the rescuing of 40,000 African penguins following the Treasure oil spill in 2000 – an animal rescue that still stands as the largest and most successful ever undertaken.

African penguins oiled in the June 23, 2000 Treasure oil spill in Cape Town, South Africa. Photo by Tony Van Dalsen

African penguins oiled in the June 23, 2000 Treasure oil spill in Cape Town, South Africa. Photo by Tony Van Dalsen

All told thousands of professionals and volunteers managed to save 90% of the 19,000 penguins that were oiled, and 95% of the 38,500 penguins that were handled.

Release of cleaned and rehabilitated African penguins following the Treasure oil spill in Cape Town, South Africa. (The pink spots are a temporary dye to indicate the birds are ready for release, and to help researchers spot them on their islands.) Photo by Tony Van Dalsen, DAFF

Release of cleaned and rehabilitated African penguins following the Treasure oil spill in Cape Town, South Africa. (The pink spots are a temporary dye to indicate the birds are ready for release, and to help researchers spot them on their islands.) Photo by Tony Van Dalsen, DAFF

In addition to the 19,000 oiled birds, another 19,500 unoiled penguins were moved out of the path of the rapidly approaching oil slick.  This incredible undertaking is well documented in Dyan DeNapoli’s book, The Great Penguin Rescue.

books