Posts Tagged ‘Humboldt Penguins’

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

Domestic Humboldt Penguins Flourishing

May 14, 2014

 kfi9flr42bfgfbotdkgqkg74ocb7ky8The Humboldt penguin population in North American zoos accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums is increasing thanks to efforts by animal care staff at the Chicago Zoological Society’s Brookfield Zoo, Columbus Zoo and Milwaukee County Zoo, and more importantly, by some foster penguin parents.

Brookfield Zoo agreed to take two Humboldt penguin eggs — one that has hatched and one that has yet to hatch — from Columbus Zoo and Milwaukee County Zoo, respectively.
In early January, a penguin at Columbus Zoo laid an egg. However, during the Arctic blast that swept through Ohio, the penguin and her mate had difficulties incubating it. The coordinator of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ Humboldt Penguin Species Survival Plan recommended that it was in the best interest of the overall zoo population to transfer the egg to Brookfield Zoo, so that a foster pair could continue the incubation process and rear the chick. (The pair at Columbus Zoo subsequently bred again and was successful in incubating a second clutch.)

At Brookfield Zoo, Salsa and Ceviche, 10-year-old Humboldt penguins who have successfully raised chicks in the past, were in the process of incubating an egg, but it was infertile. To alleviate unnecessary stress on Salsa, staff allowed her to complete the natural incubation cycle but pulled the infertile egg from the nestbox and replaced it with a fake egg. When the egg from Columbus Zoo arrived, the fake egg was removed and replaced with the new fertile egg. Ceviche and Salsa successfully incubated the egg.
On Feb. 20, a male chick hatched, and he is progressing very well due to attentive care from his foster parents.

Guests visiting Brookfield Zoo’s Living Coast exhibit may be able to see the Columbus Zoo chick as he peeks out from the nestbox. He is distinguishable from the adults by his dark gray plumage, which will eventually molt into to a lighter gray and white color.

When he is about 70 days old, the chick will leave the nest permanently.

At Milwaukee County Zoo, a penguin pair is currently incubating two eggs. Humboldt penguins rarely are successful at raising two chicks simultaneously. To increase the chance of both chicks surviving, one will be raised by its parents at Milwaukee, and the other will be raised by foster parents at Brookfield Zoo. A transfer date for the egg is still being determined.

“We work closely with other institutions to breed and maintain healthy, self-sustaining populations that are both genetically diverse and demographically stable for a variety of species, including Humboldt penguins,” said Tim Snyder, curator of birds for the Society. “These particular penguin pairs at Columbus Zoo and Milwaukee County Zoo are not well represented in the overall accredited North American zoo population, and so we are excited to assist in the long-term viability of the population.”

Native to the coasts of Peru and Chile in South America, Humboldt penguins are considered one of the world’s most endangered penguin species and are listed as vulnerable by IUCN-The World Conservation Union.  Humboldt penguin population numbers once totaled an estimated hundreds of thousands of animals during the 1800s but are now estimated to be less than 50,000. One of the causes of their decline is over-harvesting of guano, their preferred nesting habitat. More recent threats to the survival of this species involve overfishing of their prey, entanglement in fishing nets, fishing with dynamite, hunting, predation from introduced species, and human disturbance. Significant conservation efforts have been directed toward stabilizing the population.

To help in the conservation effort, Michael Adkesson, DVM, Dipl. ACZM, vice president of clinical medicine for the Chicago Zoological Society, travels annually to Punta San Juan in Peru to continue a comprehensive population health assessment project that began in 2007. The data collected help define the current health of the population and provide a baseline for continued monitoring of population health over time.


Penguins To Waddle On Cinco de Mayo

April 30, 2014

The Penguin Post has learned that there will be a parade of Humboldt Penguins this coming Saturday as the Sedgwick County Zoo in Wichita, Kansas celebrates World Penguin Day and Cinco de Mayo. Special activities and chats with zookeepers of the penguins will take place from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday at the Cessna Penguin Cove. Zookeeper chats will take place at 10 a.m., noon, 2 p.m. and 3:45 p.m.  So, if you’re in the neighborhood, waddle on over.

Sedgwick County Zoo penguin keeper Steve Larson feeds the Humboldt penguins on display at the zoo. Read more here:

Sedgwick Zoo penguin keeper Steve Larson feeds the Humboldt penguins on display at the zoo.

Read more here:

Robot Penguins Spy Cams!

November 26, 2013

A penguin couple attempting to stage a “chick-napping” after losing their own baby. Another penguin flipping its tail under to keep its egg from freezing. A hungry predator that thought it had picked up dinner instead inadvertently became the first bird to capture an aerial-view shot.

The Penguin Post has learned that these are just some of the incredibly rare penguin moments caught on cameras filmmakers hid inside life-sized animatronic penguins and then placed among colonies of the real marine birds. There are 17 species of penguin worldwide and these robots look and move like the real thing.

“They have cameras in their eyes and they can get really close to the animals, the penguins, and they can get these kinds of shots that are really in the penguins works and also capture extraordinary behavior,” producer-director John Downer said.

Downer, with producer Phillip Dalton, used the spy-cam embeds to capture unprecedented footage for their new documentary, “Penguins: Waddle All the Way,” which premieres on the Discovery Channel Saturday 9 p.m. ET.

“The cameras actually caught the moment the egg came round and you saw the tail flip round protecting the egg, saved it from the ice,” Downer said. “You know it was a moment that you wouldn’t have seen any other way.”HT_penguin_robot_1_sr_131120_16x9_608

Downer and his team deployed 50 of these cameras, which were also placed inside fake penguin eggs rocks and ice formations.

The cameras caught emperor penguins as they took the treacherous 60-mile journey to their breeding grounds, rockhoppers as they bobbed and weaved their way through snapping sea lions, and Humboldts as they tried to evade vampire bats. They even captured moments of jealousy.

“The rockhoppers up in the colony, they were waiting for their females to return and most of them had, except for one individual that was quite lonely, and so he turned his eye on our robot and they very quickly bonded,” Dalton said. “But he was caught in the act, the female did return and she wasn’t very happy.”


Indeed, Dalton said, the angry female knocked the animatronic penguin to the ground.

Through these spy cams, the birds were seen slipping, sliding, and stumbling their way through a course of seemingly endless challenges on their annual pilgrimage to the harshest of destinations, all in hopes of creating new life.

“They reflect a lot of our lives,” Dalton said. “They would survive all the knocks in life, get back up, and just keep going.”

Fugitive Penguin 337 Sighting

May 16, 2012

The Penguin Post has recently learned that the Humboldt penguin known as 337, who escaped from its enclosure in Tokyo Sea Life Park after climbing a four meter (13 feet) high rock face barrier and skirting a barbed wire fence two months ago, was spotted in Tokyo Bay as seen in this photo taken May 7 and released by Tokyo Coast Guard Office in Tokyo May 16.   The fugitive penguin who had not been seen in about 7 weeks was spotted by a Tokyo Coast Guard patrol boat and a rescue craft which monitored Penguin 337, for about an hour in Tokyo Bay, however the capture attempt ended in vain, and eventually the boats broke off contact with the penguin according to the Tokyo Coast Guard Office.

Penguin 337 swimming in Tokyo Bay last week.

A Penguin Love Story In Kansas

April 27, 2012

The Penguin Post has learned that there is a waddling love story, of sorts, going on at the Sedgwick County Zoo, in Wichita, Kansas. As male Humboldt penguins go, Penguin Orange Blue Blue (so named because of the bands he wears) is quite the catch. He came from a good “genetic” family, wears a tux, is devoted to his lady and is charismatic with people, often the first penguin to greet visitors as they pass by the pool at the zoo’s Cessna Penguin Cove.  Meanwhile, female penguin Blue Green Green (guess how she got her name) has had her share of heartache. She fell for the wrong guy, genetically speaking, twice. As we all know breaking up is hard to do (especially twice). But, especially for penguins as they tend to be monogamous.

And then, Penguin Orange Blue Blue came along offering blades of dried grass, suggesting she build a nest. She did. They did. They have yet to produce any offspring. And yet, these two are hope for future populations of Humboldt penguins (and monogamy) everywhere. “He is a real priority for us to reproduce with this certain female,” said Joe Barkowski, the zoo’s curator of birds. “She has reproduced before and this is an important pairing genetically speaking. It will be a boost for the population to get his genes represented, and this penguin has good genes.”

Theirs is only part of the story that was told this past Saturday, which was World Penguin Day. The other part is that the zoo isn’t lacking for baby penguins. Four 6-week-old downy chicks were introduced to reporters on Thursday. They were all about the size and weight of adults cats – 6 to 7 pounds – and about as easy to herd and wrangle. The chicks and their parents occupy three of the nest boxes at the Penguin Cove; Penguins Mr. Blue Green Green and Ms. Orange Blue Blue occupy the fourth. Barkowski and penguin keeper Steve Larson interacted with the chicks briefly for their weekly weigh-in, but for the most part kept their distance as baby penguins are known for projectile pooping.

From the chicks to the Couple Green and Blue, the story is about Humboldt species survival plans. These are a South American penguin, typically breeding in coastal Peru and Chile, and Humboldts are are considered threatened, with only about 9,000 breeding pairs in the wild. That’s why zookeepers pay so much attention to how they mate. They keep detailed records of each of the zoo’s 25 penguins on breeding and management plans, looking at each DNA and likelihood for reproduction. When the “wrong” penguins become attracted to each other, they are separated. The genetically correct pairs are put in holding rooms behind the exhibits where they can eyeball each other, get acquainted and develop bonds. Just like any arranged set up, with luck, the pair will begin to bow to one another, vocalize and build a nest. On Thursday when the chicks were briefly separated from their parents, the loudest objections – squawking and honking that sounded more like donkeys braying – came from Couple Green and Blue. Stay tuned.

Penguin Passion at the Sedgwick County Zoo's penguin cove.


Zoo Honors Penguin Loving Teacher

March 29, 2012

Syracuse, NY – Corcoran High School’s History Of The Americas class wanted to honor their penguin-loving teacher, Noelle Files. She, in turn wanted to pay tribute to her hard-working students. So the class was hopeful when they nominated Hota, the acronym of the course name, during the Rosamond Gifford Zoo’s contest to name one of this year’s crop of Humboldt hatchlings. The name made it to the voting round, but lost to “Alberto.” That name was given to one of the male chicks on Feb. 17. But zoo officials were so touched by the sentiments of the Corcoran class and its teacher that they made a surprise announcement this morning to Files’ senior-level class. One of the female chicks would be named Hota.  Applause followed laughter as part-time keeper Hannah Walsh, dressed in the zoo’s Humphrey the Humboldt Penguin costume, waddled into the classroom.  Then it dawned on someone: “Oh! It’s Hota!” No, it’s Humphrey, said Zoo Director Ted Fox. Then he told the students what made their name stand out among the 1,100-plus entries submitted from around the world. “You guys hit the mark, the respect and the care that you obviously have for Ms. Files,” Fox said. The class received an adoption package including a stuffed toy penguin, a framed portrait of Hota and snapshots of the bird for each student. They also were invited to visit her, she will be going on exhibit soon, Fox said. Hota was the top vote-getter among the feminine names submitted, zoo spokeswoman Lorrell Walter said. “We tried mad hard to get everybody in the school to vote for it because we wanted to win,” said Hailey Boronczyk. “It’s cool because, well, I love the class,” Files said. “I love History of the Americas. It means a lot that the kids all got on board and that they wanted to participate in this to name something after the whole class. It’s a way for us to remember it and celebrate the class.” It also gives the community something good to see about the city schools, she said. “And it’s good for the kids. You can see how happy they are,” Files said.

Corcoran High School teacher Noelle Files reacts after being presented a photo of Hota, a Rosamond Gifford Zoo penguin named for her class. Hannah Walsh, dressed as a penguin, makes the presentation.

Name That Penguin Contest

February 10, 2012

The Penguin Post has learned that penguin lovers from around the world have been flocking to an upstate New York zoo’s name the penguin part of their website to help name a Humboldt penguin chick hatched last month. The Rosamond Gifford Zoo in Syracuse has released the top 10 girl and boy names from among 1,100 suggestions offered from the U.S. and a list of countries including Germany, Brazil, Singapore, Ecuador and Finland. Because the Humboldts breed off Peru and Chile, judges gave Spanish names a preference. The finalists? Alberto (all-BER’-toh), Caio (KAYE’-oh), Fausto (FOWS’-toh), Inigo (in-EE’-go), Mauricio (mohr-EETS’-ee-oh), Cataleya (cot-uh-LEH’-uh), Eva (EH’-vuh), Hota (HO’-tuh), Isabelita (ees-UH’-buh-lee-tuh) and Solana (so-LAW’-nuh). Zoo spokesman Lorrell Walter says Thursday they made two lists because the chick’s gender hasn’t been determined. The little penguin hatched on Jan. 9, the first of six this year and among 30 born since a breeding program started in 2005. Votes on the finalists are due by Feb. 16.

Penguins Trust Their Beaks (Literally).

September 22, 2011

Apparently, penguins can sniff out the odor of lifelong mates, helping them reunite in crowded colonies, and also can identify the scent of close kin to avoid inbreeding, scientists said on Wednesday. Some seabirds have previously been known to use their sense of smell to find food or locate nesting sites but the experiments with captive Humboldt Penguins at Brookfield Zoo near Chicago proved, for the first time, that the birds use scent to discriminate between close relatives and strangers. “Other animals do it, we do it, so why can’t penguins?” said Jill Mateo, a biopsychologist at the University of Chicago, who worked with graduate student Heather Coffin on the research published in the journal PLoS ONE. “Their sense of smell can help them find their mates and perhaps choose their mates,” Mateo said. “Penguins that travel long distances in the ocean use odors to find food and use odors to recognize nests but we didn’t know what odors or the extent to which they could use odors to recognize kin,” Mateo said. “This was the first study to show they can use odor to recognize genetic differences,” she said. Researchers worked with two groups of endangered Humboldt Penguins raised at the zoo, totaling 22 birds. Their behavior was recorded as the birds examined scents emitted by oil from the birds’ preening glands. The gland near the bird’s tail excretes oil used to keep them clean but also has an olfactory purpose.  In one experiment, penguins with mates preferred the comfort of their mates’ scent over the scents of unfamiliar penguins. In another, penguins without mates spent twice as long investigating unfamiliar penguins’ scents than those belonging to their close relatives. “In all sorts of animals that we study, including human babies, novel odors, novel cues, are investigated longer than less-novel cues,” Mateo said. Scent is used by many species to attract mates, or to avoid mating with relatives, she said. For Humboldt penguins, which nest on Peruvian cliffs and spend long periods foraging at sea, odor acts as an identifier when they return to colonies crowded with thousands of birds nesting in cracks and crevices. “It’s important for birds that live in large groups in the wild, like penguins, to know who their neighbors are so that they can find their nesting areas and also, through experience, know how to get along with the birds nearby,” said animal behavior expert Dr. Jason Watters of the Chicago Zoological Society, which operates Brookfield Zoo. “It could also be true that birds may be able to help zoo matchmakers in determining potential mates,” Watters told the Penguin Post. “You could imagine that if (naturalists) were trying to reintroduce birds to an area, you could first treat the area with an odor the birds were familiar with. That would make them more likely to stay,” he said.

Penguins follow their noses a lot more than previously thought

Hot Penguins Give Snow The Cold Shoulder

August 2, 2011

The Penguin Post has learned that a group of adorable U.K. residing penguins left sweltering in the recent mini-heatwave received a staggering eight tons of snow to cool off – but have refused to have anything to do with it. Staff at the Sea Life Center in Scarborough, England took the precaution as temperatures began to soar towards 9o degrees in North Yorkshire – with forecasters predicting more sun for the rest of the week. They ordered masses of the white stuff from an indoor ski centre 70 miles away, but their efforts have so far been in vain, as the penguins seem wary and confused of the sudden appearance of snow in the middle of a U.K. Summer heatwave.

The snow arrived just as the sun began to beat down today – but the fussy Humboldt birds turned their beaks up at it. Staff now face a race against time to convince the waddling, cold weather birds to cool themselves off before it melts in a few days’ time. Sam I’Anson, marketing co-ordinator for the centre, said the animals were generally suspicious of any changes in their normal routine. She said: ‘They were a bit wary of the snow and none of them wanted to touch it. They have seen snow before because we had a lot last winter and also the winter before, but they are very suspicious of change, and don’t seem to like it at the moment. ‘We sprinkled it around most of their enclosure but they all huddled together away from it. We are hopeful they will get used to it soon. Before it melts. ‘They come from Chile, but have spent almost all their lives here with us where it is obviously quite rare for the weather to be so hot, so they are not used to it. The snow will help cool them down. ‘Everyone loves the penguins and they really are one of our most popular attractions.’ Sam added that the cuddly creatures were still recovering after intruders broke into their enclosure in May, which may have made them unusually scared of the snow. The snow was transported in coolers across to the coast from SNO!zone indoor ski center. Emma Darvill, from the center, said: ‘It’s not every day that we get a request like this to deliver snow to a penguin exhibit, but we were only too happy to help. We were able to transport it in specially cooled containers. ‘The snow should last for at least a couple of days giving the penguins a place where they can really chill out.’  That is, if they choose to.

One of the Scarborough Sealife Center penguins makes a tentative foray into the snow