Posts Tagged ‘Happy Feet’

Emperor Penguins On the Move?

June 21, 2014

The Penguin Post has learned that a new study led by the University of Minnesota offers new insights on the long-term future of emperor penguins by showing that the penguins may be behaving in ways that allow them to adapt to their changing environment better than we expected.


Researchers have long thought that emperor penguins were philopatric, which means they would return to the same location to nest each year. The new research study used satellite images to show that penguins may not be faithful to previous nesting locations.

Researchers involved in the new study found six instances in just three years in which emperor penguins did not return to the same location to breed. They also report on one newly discovered colony on the Antarctic Peninsula that may represent the relocation of penguins.

University of Minnesota College of Science and Engineering researcher and the study’s lead author Michelle LaRue shared her findings at the IDEACITY conference in Toronto on June 20.  “Our research showing that colonies seem to appear and disappear throughout the years challenges behaviors we thought we understood about emperor penguins,” said LaRue. “If we assume that these penguins come back to the same locations every year, without fail, these new colonies we see on satellite images wouldn’t make any sense. These penguins didn’t just appear out of thin air—they had to have come from somewhere else. This suggests that emperor penguins move among colonies. That means we need to revisit how we interpret population changes and the causes of those changes.”

Emperor penguins are a well-studied species and have recently been elevated to celebrity status with movies like “Happy Feet” and the documentary “March of the Penguins.”

The “March of the Penguins” colony is called Pointe Géologie and it’s been studied for more than 60 years. Researchers observe the colony every year and look, in particular, for birds that have been banded by researchers to return to the colony. In recent decades researchers have been concerned about how receding  may affect the emperor penguins that breed on it.

Over five years in the late 1970s, the Southern Ocean warmed and at the same time the penguin colony at Pointe Géologie, declined by half (6,000 breeding pairs to 3,000 breeding pairs). The decline was thought to be due to decreased survival rates. In other words, researchers thought that the warming temperatures were negatively impacting the survival of the species.

High-resolution satellite imagery has changed all that because now researchers can see the entire coastline and all the sea ice. Because emperor penguins are the only species out on the sea ice, they can look at images and identify their presence through the telltale sign—their guano stain. Before satellite images, researchers thought Pointe Géologie was isolated and there was nowhere else for the penguins to go. The  show that Pointe Géologie is not isolated at all. Plenty of colonies are within easy travel distance for an .

“It’s possible that penguins have moved away from Pointe Géologie to these other spots and that means that maybe those banded birds didn’t die,” LaRue said. “If we want to accurately conserve the species, we really need to know the basics. We’ve just learned something unexpected, and we should rethink how we interpret colony fluctuations.”

Noodles and Albie (A Penguin Picture Book)

September 8, 2013

The soon to be released Noodles & Albie is a colorful and fun penguin picture book.  Story by Eric Bennett and illustrations by Liz Bannish.  It is the tale of how a young penguin (Noodles) overcomes his fears and makes, loses and finds again an unlikely new friend (Albie), and does a lot of growing up the process.

noodlespenguinNoodles & Albie was conceived and evolved over time by Penguin Place founder and long time lover of all things penguin Eric Bennett as a bedtime story for his young daughters.  The story was originally called The Fish & The Penguin, and was scribbled down a couple of times, and over time some  illustrations were made by Eric and his kids, but it was mostly told and re-told from memory and over the years with each re-telling the story grew and the characters evolved.

noodleswithparentsThis past January, Eric was “volunteered” by his youngest daughter Rose to read a story to her kindergarten class, so Eric decided rather than read something the kids already knew, he’d finally put The Fish & The Penguin story to paper and read his original penguin tale to Rose’s class.  In writing it down Eric fleshed out the main characters a bit more giving them the names Noodles and Albie, and added a few supporting underwater players.  The origin of the title names were that Noodles has been Eric’s nickname since he was a kid (think long curly ringlets of 1970’s hair), and Albie is the the nickname of Eric’s friend Melissa who he plays ball with.  Eric also decided on settling on those names so as not to upset either of his daughters, and also to give the characters a bit more personality than the generic Fish & Penguin.  Besides, it seemed from the get-go that the names Noodles & Albie fit the characters perfectly.

eelpicfinishedTo Eric’s surprise and delight the reading of Noodles and Albie to Ms. Bussone’s kindergarten class at Bridge St. School was met with much fanfare and acclaim, or as much acclaim (twenty 6 years old kids giving a standing ovation) as one can get from a kindergarten class.  Even Ms. Bussone wanted to know the origin of this “wonderful book”.   A small Noodles & Albie buzz was now in the air around the lower grades with Eric getting requests for print copies of the story from some of the children and parents at Bridge St. School.  A short time later Noodles & Albie was brought to the attention of local Northampton artist Elizabeth Bannish who was intrigued by the charming narrative and colorful characters of the story, so naturally Eric inquired if she would be interested in illustrating the story.  To his surprise Liz said yes, and the two began to collaborate on the fun side project of bringing the Noodles, Albie and their world to life.  Over the next weeks and months Liz’s illustrations went from black and white storyboard sketches, to beautiful, unique and vivid color paintings.  Capturing the essence of the story and her interesting take on the characters that inhabit it.

lizpaintsNot to give too much away but the story is about Noodles, a young penguin who is afraid to go in the water, but of course being a penguin he must learn how to swim,  especially before the winter and six months of Antarctic darkness sets in.

noodleswithparentsOn the last day of summer (and daylight), his parents finally convince Noodles to take the plunge.  After a few moments of confusion and anxiety Noodles realizes that swimming is easy and fun.  But, in his excitement Noodles gets separated from his friends and soon is lost.  He knows he has to get back home before the sun sets for the Antarctic (six months) winter or else he’ll never find his way home, and so his odyssey begins.  He asks various sea creatures for directions, but none of them know where the penguin colony is.  Alone and lost, Noodles is desolate.  A small fish named Albie hears his crying and offers to help. It’s a race against time to get back to the penguin colony before the sun sets.  The fun adventures and intrigue that happens to the pair along the way is what Noodles & Albie is all about.7Noodles & Albie should be available as an e-book and print version sometime in the Winter of 2014

Penguin Awareness Day!

January 19, 2012

Yes, it’s that time of year again: National Penguin Awareness Day is Jan. 20 and we hope you celebrate in style. Obviously, if you’re a reader of the Penguin Post then it goes without saying that just about everyday is Penguin Awareness Day, but let’s make this annual event the perfect opportunity to enlighten others to the wonderful world of penguins. Be it something fun and silly, or something more serious like raising awareness to the plight of endangered and threatened penguins around the world.  There are 17 species of penguins and many are threatened by climate change and man made dangers like oil spills and habitat encroachment which makes this years Penguin Awareness Day more important than ever.  But, oil spills aside there’s still plenty of room to make this a fun day to celebrate and share.  The first obvious way to start your day is wearing black and white, then adding some penguin accessories, be it jewelry, buttons, socks, a penguin hat or a pair of penguin mittens. In other words, dress like a penguin, think like a penguin.  Next, how about having some fish for lunch or Penguin Pasta? My daughters are wearing their penguin hats and packing some goldfish crackers with their lunch.   Remember, eating fish is healthy and a penguin would.  A little waddle now and then wouldn’t hurt either,  as would making penguin cupcakes or cookies.  Visit your local penguins at a zoo or aquarium.  Play a penguin board game, like Penguin-opoly or Match of The Penguins.  In the evening how about a viewing of Mr. Popper’s Penguins, Happy Feet or March of The Penguins, or perhaps re-enacting the famous “Penguin Huddle” with someone special.  Sending a Penguin Awareness Day e-card, replacing your desktop with penguin pictures, or forwarding penguin pictures to your friends is also a great way to share your penguin passion.  So, here’s to having a wonderfully waddling National Penguin Awareness Day.

The Fun Penguins Of Maryland

January 13, 2012

I have a real soft spot for the Maryland (Baltimore) Zoo as a few years ago I was treated to a behind the scenes, up close and personal chance to hang out in the penguin den for an hour.  That afternoon was without a doubt my personal favorite live penguin experience.  I doubt any of the penguins remember me, but I sure remember them.

Eric in his peronal penguin heaven at the Maryland Zoo

Today, the Penguin Post is happy to report that the 52 African penguins at The Maryland Zoo are doing just fine and are more popular than ever as they chew on shoe laces, hide underneath rocks and skirmish among themselves. They are a curious, stubborn, squawking lot. The keepers at their Rock Island habitat, the zoo’s penguin exhibit since 1967, have their hands full. Always. “This is kind of like having a day care with a bunch of 3-year-old kids sometimes,” said Jen Kottyan, the high-energy manager charged with their care. Yet it’s those same quirks that have allowed the waddling, attention-craving penguins to endear themselves to their human keepers. Their antics during public feedings draw a crowd no matter the time of year, including in the winter months when the Maryland Zoo was previously closed to visitors. The zoo is open 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Fridays through Mondays in January and February for the second consecutive year. A few of the species, including some African birds and tortoises, are kept indoors during teeth-chattering, cold winter days. But most of the zoo’s more than 2,500 animals deal with frigid weather just fine. The African penguins seem right at home. The species is native to the rocky coastline of South Africa and Namibia and its temperate climate. Only a few penguin species live as far south as Antarctica in the wild. The zoo’s penguins are free to meander about outside as long as their 250,000-gallon moat is not completely frozen over.

Feeding Time

If it gets too chilly even for them, they can retreat to a heated indoor sanctuary. When the domesticated penguins spot caretakers and visitors inside their habitat, many of them wander over. And that’s when the fun starts. Depending on their moods, the penguins will peck at pant legs, surround their human counterparts or jostle with each other. If one of their human handlers omits a yell that sounds like a braying donkey, the penguins will mimic it. The high-pitched squawk is the reason why the African penguins are nicknamed the jackass breed. “We don’t like to call them that,” Kottyan said, “but the kids get a kick out of it.” During a public feeding Friday, the penguins gathered while caretakers flung herring, capelin and squid at the group. The penguins each eat about a pound of fish each day. Their human overseers closely track how much each penguin in the group eats. Two of the zoo’s four penguin chicks were brought outside for the public feeding. Four penguin chicks have been successfully bred there in recent months, Kottyan said, with the most recent one born on Christmas Day. The Maryland Zoo has raised more than 800 chicks and plays a role in the African Penguin Species Survival Plan. The zoo has raised chicks that are now on display throughout the country at other exhibits. The Maryland Zoo has the largest collection of African penguins in the U.S. The African penguins are threatened due to overfishing and frequent oil slicks in their home habitats, which happen to be near busy shipping routes for crude. “If they get coated with oil, they want to clean themselves and wind up ingesting it,” Kottyan said. The plight other species of  penguins have been featured in major motion pictures such as “March of the Penguins”, “Surf’s Up”, “Madagascar” and “Happy Feet” in the last decade, but the not so glamorous African penguin has not seen the Hollywood spotlight yet. Kottyan said zoo visitors took notice. “We hear the comments even still when we are out in the public feeding that our penguins don’t look like the ones from ‘March of the Penguins,’” she said. That’s because they are a completely different breed. “March of the Penguins” followed a colony of Emperor penguins in Antarctica. The 2-feet-tall African penguins are roughly half the size of their Emperor counterparts. Regardless, Kottyan said the movies sparked an interest in their plight and allow the keepers to explain that there are different types of penguin.  Even in Africa, where these penguins are considered endangered by The

Say Cheese ( I mean fishies).

International Union for Conservation of Nature. The penguin exhibit is among the most popular at the zoo, staffers said. A few times each year, the zoo holds Breakfast with the Penguins programs. This year’s programs are scheduled for 8:30 a.m. April 14, July 6-7 and Sept. 8. “They sell out every single time,” Kottyan said. During the events, visitors have the opportunity to eat breakfast, feed the penguins and learn more about their behavior. They discover what their caretakers have known for so long: The tiny penguins can be rambunctious, loving, inquisitive and maddening all at once. “Working with these guys,” keeper Betty Dipple said, “prepares you for motherhood.”

Searching For Happy Feet

December 11, 2011

The Penguin Post has learned that a wealthy New Zealand philanthropist wants to find Happy Feet, the lost emperor penguin that gained worldwide stardom after he washed up on a New Zealand beach thousands of miles from his Antarctic home. After being nursed back to health, Happy Feet caught a ride home on a research ship, where in a very public media event he was released, complete with an electronic tracker that allowed people to follow his progress on the internet. That signal died only a short time later, prompting many to fear Happy Feet had met with an unfortunate end. In an interview with the New Zealand Herald Gareth Morgan – who paid for the transmitter – said he believed the popular penguin may have simply swum out of range and he plans to mount a mission to find him. This theory matches that of tracking company Sirtrack who said in September that the rumors of Happy Feet’s death were greatly exaggerated and that it was likely his tracking device had simply fallen off. Mr Morgan, a former economist known in his native New Zealand as an author and philanthropist, will join 12 scientists on a 30-day voyage to Antarctica early next year to raise awareness of the importance of the region, and as an “add-on” to the trip will try to prove the wayward bird is alive. “He’s got a radio-chip embedded in him so in theory, we could come across a colony of penguins and go out with a radio transmitter trying to find him,” he said. Let’s keep our flippers crossed that that’s the case.

Happy Feet moments before his release.



Crazy Escape: A Penguin (Bad) Driving Game

October 26, 2011

Fall 2011 is the unofficial season of anthropomorphized penguins. Don’t believe me? Between the penguin sweater craze and the release of Happy Feet 2, adorable penguins are everywhere. Now, a third entry into fall’s penguin lineup is here in the form of BulkyPix’s super-cute new game, Crazy Escape [99¢]. And this one answers the question on everybody’s mind: Can penguins drive tiny penguin cars, and if so, is it extra-adorable?

It’s a story as old as time itself: Two penguin buddies have to take to their Jeep (err, low-emission 4×4 of indeterminate branding, I should say) to save their sheep friends from being kidnapped and eaten by wolves. As these penguins race along the winding road, they must collect sheep, stars (ostensibly because penguins like shiny objects?), keys (to unchain locked-up sheep, of course!), and avoid stationary wolves, roaming wolves, chasing wolves – basically wolves of all kinds, all right?! You can run into fences (good) and trees (bad!), and the less road you cover to complete the level, the better. Your finger acts as a simultaneous road-creating device and penguin-steerer. You drag your finger across the screen to create the path your penguins take. Ideally, you devise the shortest route possible to collect your stars and sheep friends, as this results in the highest score.At first, it’s not particularly challenging because there’s no element of speed involved. However, as the game progresses, wolves start out on the road behind you, following your every movement, and if you dawdle too long you’ll be busted for sure. Additionally, things like oil slicks and trees get in your path which, if hit, cause you to swerve (at best) or force you to restart the level (at worst). Here’s hoping everyone was wearing their seat belts! The levels go by lightning-fast, so it’s perfect if you have a short attention span or a short period of time in which to play. The graphics are also pretty cute. However, as it’s a line-drawing game, the most important part is the drawing element. The worst part of so many drawing games is an imprecise, over-sensitive or otherwise less-than-ideal drawing mechanic. Luckily, that’s not the case with Crazy Escape. The drawing was perfectly in-sync with my finger; at times, perhaps a little too in-sync, as I have shaky hands (particularly when being chased by hungry wolves). My only real complaint is that on an iPhone or iPod touch screen, it’s hard to see what you’re doing. My chubby fingers kept blocking my view, which made it difficult to navigate around the increasingly challenging obstacles the game threw at me as I progressed. Still,  I found this game to be extremely fun. For only a buck, there’s really no excuse to not download this one. You get a seemingly-endless number of levels and a fun diversion, and it’s Universal to boot. Besides, you don’t want to find yourself ill-prepared for the fall penguin craze, do you?

Happy Feet’s Fate Still Being Debated

October 7, 2011

The fate of Happy Feet, the emperor penguin who washed up in New Zealand, 2000 miles from his Antarctic home, remained a mystery despite persistent questioning in the New Zealand parliament on Thursday.  Fisheries Minister Phil Heatley could only tell the House of

Happy Feet before released.

Representatives that it was “highly improbable” that he was caught in the nets of a trawler after being released into the Southern Ocean September 4. The saga of Happy Feet has been followed by thousands around the world since he was nursed back to health after being found on a North Island beach eating sand under the impression it was snow. Fans expressed alarm when the satellite transmitter glued to his feathers stopped sending signals eight days after he was freed from a boat into the near-freezing waters off New Zealand’s Campbell Island. There was immediate speculation that he had been eaten by a whale or some other monster of the deep, but Green member of parliament Gareth Hughes suspected he had been swept up in the nets of one of nine trawlers recorded around Happy Feet’s last known location. The boats, trawling for southern blue whiting, or blue cod, were 37 to 55 kilometres away from the penguin at the time of the last transmission. “A southern blue whiting trawler can cover 50 nautical miles (893 kilometres) in a day, and we are talking about an incredibly long net that is almost half a kilometre wide and 75 metres high,” Hughes said. “How can the minister claim that it is very unlikely that Happy Feet was possibly trawled?” he asked. As the speaker tried to keep order amid the festive noise of the last day of parliament before next month’s general election, Heatley reminded parliament that the closest vessel was 32 kilometers away when the transmissions fell silent. “Its fishing lines are not 32 kilometers long,” he said. “That would have meant that the vessel raced the transponder’s emission, which went probably faster than – or close to – the speed of light. That would have been a very fast fishing vessel, indeed.” Heatley said ministry officials had been monitoring the fishing boats and Happy Feet’s transponder on adjacent screens, and they never came near each other.

Penguin Anarchy In The U.K.

October 6, 2011

In the latest wild and crazy wayward penguin thousands of miles from home news,  the Penguin Post has learned that day trippers on Southsea beach near Portsmouth in the U.K. were astonished to see what appeared to be a penguin frolicking in the shallows. The British Sun newspaper even published grainy footage of a black and white seabird diving in and out of the waves on Sunday.  As the south coast enjoyed record high October temperatures there were plenty of locals to witness the strange sight of a penguin in the U.K.  Witnesses claim that the penguin was said to have been also seen waddling around the harbor to the shock, delight and surprise of onlookers.  The newspaper suggested that it could be a lost jackass (African) penguin, whose natural habitat is usually 6,000 miles away in South Africa.  The claim of this latest rare sighting of a penguin thousands of miles from home has come only a few months after an Antarctic Emperor Penguin nicknamed “Happy Feet” caused a global sensation when it turned up in New Zealand.  Joanne Gordon, 35, of Aldershot, who shot the footage, told the paper:  “I couldn’t believe it when I saw it swimming around away just six foot from me.”  Hopefully, this penguin won’t be dining on beach sand like his cousin from New Zealand did over the Summer.  But, only time will tell.

The penguin spotted near Portsouth is reported to be an African Penguin

Protecting Penguins By Knitting Down Under

September 15, 2011
After all the time and effort made to rescue and nurse wayward penguin Happy Feet back to health before his release earlier this month, the Penguin Post has learned that Australian wildlife officers in Victoria are making every effort to ensure their own indigenous penguins are protected from potential harm.  Twenty-five people, including the Department of Sustainability and Environment’s (DSE) south-west senior biodiversity officer Mandy Watson, took part in a two-day training course on how to care for wildlife affected by an oil spill. Last week’s course also involved staff from the Phillip Island Nature Parks, the Department of Transport and the Australian Marine Oil Spill Center. Ms. Watson yesterday described the course as “fantastic”, saying she had learned a lot about new techniques in treating oil-affected birds. “We also learned about catching and handling penguins and were out at night on the beach.” Caitlin Barry, from DSE’s wildlife conservation and management unit, said marine wildlife was one of the first casualties in an oil spill. “Penguins that are smothered with oil are vulnerable to internal damage because preening their feathers means they ingest the oil. This can cause chemical poisoning,” Ms Barry said. “Oil can also interfere with the buoyancy and temperature regulation of seabirds, which leaves them extremely cold and tired. “DSE has established wildlife response procedures for marine pollution emergencies for the rescue, humane treatment and rehabilitation of oiled wildlife”. In the case of an oil spill, one of the key stages in rehabilitating wildlife is cleaning the oil off them and participants practiced at the training sessions using dummy birds. Phillip Island Nature Parks spokesperson Roz Jessop said it took about 50 liters of water to wash one penguin. “The birds are given a pre-treatment, and hand washed using dish washing detergent and a soft cloth. They are then rinsed and dried. “If they are not rinsed properly, the penguins can become waterlogged and drown because penguins aren’t waterproof when they have oil on them.  Rescuers also use sweaters to stop the birds from preening themselves and ingesting the oil. “They used to use little ponchos but the penguins worked out how to pull these off. There are now people all over the world dedicated to knitting penguin jumpers to use in oil spills,” Ms Jessop said.

This penguin may look fashionable but the sweater is there to stop the penguins from preening themselves and ingesting the oil.

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Happy Feet Gone But Not Forgotten

September 14, 2011

The Penguin Post has learned that Happy Feet may be gone but not forgotten as workers at a New Zealand nature preserve where a confused emperor penguin washed ashore in June say they want to erect a sign at the now famous Peka Peka beach to honor the bird.  Happy Feet was released back into the wild closer to its home in the Southern Ocean Sept. 4, and the Nga Manu Nature Reserve is petitioning for a monument, the Kapiti Observer in New Zealand reported Tuesday. Nga Manu Manager Bruce Benseman has applied to the Waikanae Community Board for $600 to erect a sign marking the spot where Happy Feet washed ashore in Peka Peka. He pointed out that an emperor penguin has visited New Zealand only one other time, 44 years ago. “It is therefore a rare and special occurrence and worth memorializing,” he said. The sign would give visitors to the beach information on whom to contact if they discover stranded wildlife.

Happy Feet on Peka Peka Beach in late June