Posts Tagged ‘March of the penguins’

Penguin Chicks Graduate From Fish School

August 4, 2015

That Penguin Post has learned that this past weekend the San Francisco Zoo celebrated along with their proud Magellanic penguin chicks Erin and Steve as they graduated from Fish School and joined the penguin colony. The chicks, born in mid-May, had to learn how to swim and accept hand feeding before they could move in with the adults.  At two-and-a-half months old, the chicks are mature enough to live with the rest of the colony.

898831_630x354To commemorate the official entry of the chicks, zoo officials held a March of the Penguins at 10 a.m. Animal handlers led the chicks on a procession around Penguin Island, to their final destination where they could dive into the water and join the colony.

Several hundred people visited the zoo to observe the proceedings and participate in the festivities. The SF zoo offered face-painting, craft projects and “Sustainable Seafood Games” for families.

The SF Zoo, according to their official website, “maintains the largest and most successful breeding colony of Magellanic penguins in captivity, having fledged approximately 205 chicks since 1985, and participating in a nationally-coordinated Population Management Plan (sponsored by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums).”

No precise date has been scheduled for the next March of the Penguins, and until then the public can watch Erin and Steve grow up among their fellow penguins.


March of The Penguins

March 2, 2015

Every penguin lover knows that March comes in like an angry Rockhopper.

830017-rockhopper-penguin and goes out like a downy Emperor Chick.


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.”

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.”

A Giant Penguin

August 2, 2011

They may not be giants, but there seems to be a Giants theme at the San Francisco Zoo as Giants catcher Buster Posey now has his own namesake at the zoo – an outgoing Magellanic penguin with a cute waddle. That Posey was a girl penguin didn’t seem to be a problem for the hundreds of zoo visitors who turned out to see her and the zoo’s four other young penguins rejoin their colony Saturday. They had spent the last month or so in school, becoming used to their keepers while getting ready to swim. Dressed appropriately in their natural formal wear, the five classmates made the annual march through a crowd of human well-wishers to mark their official graduation from fish school. As Posey dived into the penguin pool, she officially joined a zoo family that also includes Giants namesakes Brian Wilson the (clean shaven) hippo and Lincecum the howler monkey, also a girl. Her name was chosen in a random drawing from suggestions submitted by zoo members Saturday morning.

The annual March of the Penguins is a huge draw for the zoo, which has the largest captive Magellanic colony in the world with 49 of the black and white birds. They are “world-famous penguins,” said Anthony Brown, the primary penguin keeper. The newest members were hatched on Penguin Island and spent their first four to six weeks with their parents. Still unable to swim – and with their parents increasingly leaving them alone – they were then taken off to fish school to keep them safe, said Brown, who can tell every one of the 49 penguins apart. “That’s Mona,” he said, pointing to a penguin 20 feet away that looked to a visitor exactly like all the other penguins. Nearby swam Sparkles, appropriately named given her prima donna attitude, Brown said. “All animals have individual personalities,” the keeper said. “These guys take it to a whole other level.” Posey, for example, is an outgoing girl who loves to hang out with people. One of her classmates, Ludwig, is also an extrovert, while the other three still-unnamed penguins are a bit more shy. Zoo volunteer Adriana Thumm was among the humans who helped socialize the new penguins in fish school – a job that required a background check and some seniority, said the 34-year-old native San Franciscan. She watched with pride as they waddled without fear through the crowd and into their pool. Thumm spent about three hours total sitting with the penguins, who cuddled and climbed on her. “They’re a little smelly,” she said. “But it’s totally worth it. You just don’t make plans to go out after. “The zoo added the penguin colony to its exhibits in 1984, starting with 69 Magellanic birds, which are considered a near-threatened species, Brown said. Since then, 200 more have hatched, with some sent to zoos around the world. The colony has made international headlines over the years, most recently for the split of two gay penguins caught in a love triangle with a female widow. While the nearby rhino is nice and the gorilla is a big draw for others, the penguins have always been Dylan Buren’s favorite. Dylan, who has been coming to the zoo with his family at least a few times a year since he was born, said he always stops by to hang out and watch the birds, although he wasn’t quite sure why he loved them the most. “I like the water too,” the Sonoma County teen said finally. As zoo members, Dylan, his parents and brother Tyler were allowed in the gates early Saturday to watch the March of the Penguins – the perfect way to spend Dylan’s 13th birthday. Attendees could enter a naming contest for the female penguin, with the winner chosen at random. With each Buren decked out head to toe in Giants gear, the family came up with their pick in the car Saturday morning. Posey. “I don’t believe we won,” said mom Kristy Buren. “We never win anything.” For nearly an hour after the graduation ceremony ended, Dylan stood at the penguin pool rails watching the birds glide through the water and waddle out onto their island for fish. Every now and then he would spot his penguin Posey, who stood out with her all-black armband. He noted that she needed a little orange to go with her black and white tux. Nonetheless, Posey the penguin was, “the best birthday present ever.”

Posey leads his mates at the S.F. Zoo

Top Half Dozen Penguin Movies Of All Time

June 18, 2011

With the arrival of Mr. Popper’s Penguins in theaters today not withstanding here are the Penguin Posts list of the top 6 Penguin Movies of all time. Honorable mention goes to the 1995 musical The Pebble and The Penguin and the 1993 award winning short The Wrong Trousers.

#6 Billy Madison: In Adam Sandler’s film, the title character is haunted by visions of a mysterious human-sized penguin. Possibly the result of a combination of sunstroke caused by alcohol consumption, the penguin appears several times and adds to the questionable nature of Madison’s sanity. Two separate actors are credited with playing the role of Penguin in the Tamra Davis-directed movie that helped cement Sandler as a star outside of his “Saturday Night Live” exploits.

Choice Quotation:
Billy Madison (Sandler): [Drunk, he sees a fake a penguin] It’s too damn hot for a penguin to be just walkin’ around here. I gotta send him back to the South Pole.

#5 Surf’s Up:  Never before has the sport of surfing been so fully explored by penguins as in the 2007 film “Surf’s Up.” Starring the voices of Jeff Bridges, Zooey Deschanel, Jon Heder and Shia LaBeouf, the “major ocean picture,” directed by Ash Brannon and Chris Buck, followed the story of LaBeouf’s Cody Maverick on his quest to become the greatest Penguin World Surfing Champion of all time. Kelly Slater and Rob Machado enjoyed penguin-ed cameos.

Choice Quotation:
Lani Aliikai (Deschanel): Can I ask you something personal?
Cody Maverick: Lani, we’re in the shower together! Y’can say whatever you want.

#4 Batman Returns: Directed by the inimitable Tim Burton, “Batman Returns” is the sequel to the movie franchise/merchandise machine kick-started in 1989. In “Batman Returns,” Michael Keaton’s Batman battles Catwoman (Michelle Pfeiffer) and Penguin (Danny DeVito). DeVito’s dark version of Penguin was a deformed monster who spent his time hanging out in the sewers of Gotham City. Of course, Penguin kept company with plenty of actual penguins (some of whom were cool enough to have backpack rocket launchers).

Choice Quotation:
Fat Clown (Travis McKenna): Penguin … I mean, killing sleeping children — isn’t it that a little, uh …
[Penguin grabs an umbrella and shoots Henchman dead]
Penguin: No! It’s a lot “uh”!

#3 Madagascar: Voiced by Tom McGrath (the film’s writer-director), Chris Miller, John DiMaggio and Christopher Knights, the penguins are complicit in the plot to break out of New York Central Park Zoo that ends up getting the escaped animals stuck in Madagascar. The film, co-directed by Eric Darnell, earned more than $500 million in worldwide box office, which ensured a sequel ($600 million worldwide); a third film is slated for Summer 2012. The penguins themselves were so popular that they were spun off into their own short film, “The Madagascar Penguins in a Christmas Caper” and ultimately earned their own Nickelodeon series.
Choice Quotation:
Private the Penguin (Knights): Skipper. Shouldn’t we tell them that the boat is out of gas?
Skipper the Penguin (McGrath): Nah! Just smile and wave, boys. Smile and wave.

#2 March Of The Penguins: Directed by Luc Jacquet, this 2005 documentary follows the arduous annual journey of the emperor penguins of Antarctica. Famously narrated by Morgan Freeman (in the English version), the G-rated film took audiences by surprise and grossed more than $125 million worldwide. The film’s critical acclaim resulted in a win at the Academy Awards for Best Documentary Feature and a spoof by Bob Saget titled “The Farce of the Penguins.”

Choice Quotation:
Freeman: There is a mysterious ritual that dates back thousands of years. No living creature has survived it except the penguin. They have wings but cannot fly. They’re birds that think they’re fish.

#1 Happy Feet: The musical prowess of penguins is fully explored in George Miller’s “Happy Feet,” which grossed close to $200 million in domestic box office back in 2006. Following the story of Mumble (voiced by Elijah Wood), audiences discovered that when penguins can’t sing, they logically turn to tap dancing. “Happy Feet” won the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature in 2006 and was dedicated to the memory of “The Crocodile Hunter,” Steve Irwin. “Happy Feet 2 in 3D” is slated for release on November 18.

Choice Quotation:
Ramón: [After hearing Mumble sing] Yeah, I heard an animal once do that, but then they rolled him over and he was dead.

The musical prowess of penguins is fully explored in George Miller’s “Happy Feet,” which grossed close to $200 million in domestic box office back in 2006. Following the story of Mumble (voiced by Elijah Wood), audiences discovered that when penguins can’t sing, they logically turn to tap dancing. “Happy Feet” won the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature in 2006 and was dedicated to the memory of “The Crocodile Hunter,” Steve Irwin. “Happy Feet 2 in 3D” is slated for release on November 18.

Choice Quotation:
Ramón: [After hearing Mumble sing] Yeah, I heard an animal once do that, but then they rolled him over and he was dead.

Shifting Ice Threatens March Of The Penguins Penguins

March 13, 2010

The Penguin Post has learned that shifting sea ice around Antarctica is already disrupting penguin colonies as the world’s climate warms, according to a new report by a team of polar scientists.

The researchers looked at the complex relationship between emperor and Adelie penguins and their changing habitats and studied how a projected temperature increase in coming decades of 2 degrees Celsius, or 3.6 Fahrenheit, might affect the way the animals build nests, find food and raise their young. …

The most deadly effect of the changes was already visible 30 years ago among emperor penguins on Adelie Land, along Antarctica’s east coast, where the 2005 Academy Award-winning documentary “The March of the Penguins” was filmed, Ainley said.

Winds there, at Pointe Géologie, swept the solid ice where female penguins laid their eggs and the male emperors kept the eggs warm and reared the chicks. Under those fierce winds, the thinned and unstable ice broke off. Though the males could swim, the chicks drowned. Within a decade, the emperor colony’s population dropped from 6,000 pairs to 3,000, Ainley said.

Iceberg Threatens Penguin Colony

February 27, 2010

An enormous iceberg in Antarctica plowed into a peninsula made of ice and snapped it off, creating a second gigantic iceberg, and threatening the penguin colony made famous by the movie March of the Penguins.

The Mertz glacier in Antarctica has been gradually oozing out to sea, and for the past 70 years, it has been producing a giant tongue of ice.

French and Australian scientists have been watching that tongue because it looked like it would eventually crack off and become a giant iceberg. That’s exactly what happened about a week ago, when a 60-mile-long iceberg rammed into it.

The two icebergs are now gradually heading counterclockwise around Antarctica, south of Australia. They’re moving toward an area of open water that’s the feeding grounds for the Emperor penguins who became international stars in the March of the Penguins documentary.

Biologists say this could make life even tougher for these amazingly hardy birds.

Giant Penguin Found!

January 2, 2010

The Penguin Post has learned that scientists have uncovered fossils which reveal the ancestor of the penguin to be a fearsome beast far removed from the waddling bird in dinner-suit plumage which has endeared itself to cinema audiences. The fossils, which were found in Peru, suggest a creature that was more than 5 feet tall and weighed as much as a human. The 36 million-year-old tropical bird’s intimidating appearance was topped off with powerful arms, a chunky neck and a potentially vicious foot long beak. “It’s a monster,” said Professor Julia Clarke, of North Carolina State University, who described the fossils with her team in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The discovery of the giant bird has shaken scientists’ understanding of penguin evolution. The find indicates that penguins made the journey to equatorial regions much earlier in their evolutionary history than researchers realized. And because the penguins lived during a period when the planet was experiencing a “greenhouse” climate, the pair of species that have been discovered are challenging what researchers thought they knew about how species adapt to hotter temperatures. The giant species has been named Icadyptes salasi. If it were alive today, it would tower over the largest penguins on the planet, the nearly 4 foot tall Emperors, whose epic migration across the Antarctic wilderness to bring food to their chicks was celebrated in the film March of the Penguins. “The bone preservation is extremely good,” Professor Clarke said. The detail is so clear that researchers were able to see fine patterning on the beak of the giant penguin left by a sheet of keratin, the material that makes up feathers. The team does not have any direct evidence for the new discovery’s diet, but the wings were adapted for swimming and found in sediments laid down just off shore. Its elongated beak would have been capable of snaring large fish, but its shape is unusual. “It is distinct from anything we have in living penguins,” Professor Clarke said. Attachment points for neck muscles are also large, suggesting it had a powerful neck for spearing prey. The discovery goes against the general rule that as climatic conditions get warmer, species tend to evolve into a smaller body size. The theory is that large size is useful in the cold because it reduces the ratio of surface area to volume, making it easier to conserve heat. But Icadyptes salasi was found in a region that resembled the modern-day Atacama Desert in Chile. The find contradicts the idea that penguins did not reach equatorial regions until 4 million to 8 million years ago, well after a cooling period had set in that began to swell the polar icecaps. Today, only one species, the Humboldt penguin, is found on the coast of Peru. The team is keen to point out that although these species were adapted to the tropics, it does not mean that current penguin species will be able to adapt quickly to climate change. “Current global warming is occurring on a significantly shorter time scale,” Professor Clarke said.