Category Archives: News

African Penguins Face Short Lives, Few Chicks as Sardines Flee

Hundreds of African penguins bask in the sun and frolic in the waves at Boulders Beach in Cape Town as tourists snap pictures from the boardwalk that traverses their breeding ground.

The flightless seabirds’ seemingly idyllic existence belies the fact that their species is under threat. Bird numbers at the main breeding colonies on South Africa’s west coast have plunged 90 percent since 2004, mainly because of a shortage of fish.

“Food is the problem,” University of Exeter researcher Richard Sherley, who published a study on the penguins this month, said by phone July 15. “The outlook on the west coast is quite gloomy.”

The African penguin only breeds on 25 islands and at four mainland sites in South Africa and Namibia and government data shows the number of breeding pairs has plummeted to less than 25,000, from about 1 million in the 1920s. The birds are a tourist draw — the Boulders reserve attracted 691,171 visitors last year, while 359,149 people went to Robben Island offshore Cape Town where about 2,000 pairs nest and Nelson Mandela served time in a political prison.

The study led by Sherley, which was published in the Royal Society Publishing journal Biology Letters, found while chick survival rose 18 percent after a three-year fishing moratorium around Robben Island, that wasn’t sufficient to offset adult bird mortality.

New Colonies

Another investigation led by Robert Crawford, a scientist at South Africa’s Department of Environmental Affairs, found sardine and anchovy shoals have migrated from the west coast to the south and east, probably in response to climate change and fishing.

Conservation options include imposing further fishing restrictions and trying to encourage juvenile birds to establish new colonies along South Africa’s southern coast.

While African penguins should be able to survive for 30 years in the wild, they are probably only living about 10 years on average, according to Sherley. Fewer chicks are also being born.

“They breed slowly,” he said. “They produce on average less than one chick per pair per year, so maintaining adult survival is absolutely critical.”

[via Bloomberg]

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Birds of prey used to tackle unwanted visitors at top attraction

BIRDS of prey are being bought in to tackle a pigeon problem which is keeping a visitor attraction’s most popular residents indoors.

The Deep aquarium in Hull has commissioned a local falconer to scare off pigeons, which have been roosting and making a mess on the attraction.

The attraction’s gentoo penguins have not been allowed out of their new enclosure onto an outdoor balcony because of fears they could pick up avian diseases from the pigeon droppings.

Chief executive Colin Brown said: “The penguins have this area outside where they can go, a little balcony, but the pigeons are nesting above them and they carry a lot of avian diseases, so we don’t feel we can let out the penguins in case they catch something from the pigeon droppings. “Equally we don’t want to kill the pigeons.”

 He said they had “pretty dramatic reaction” the first time they tried flying a bird of prey with seagulls which also hang round the building going “beserk” – although the pigeons stood their ground.

He expects the problem to take some months to solve with the help of a five-year-old peregrine falcon and an 18-month-old Harris hawk.

He said: “A number of major events including Wimbledon have successfully scared the pigeons away using this method, so we thought it was worth a try.

“When the falcon and hawk are flown in a specific routine, it alters the pigeons’ roosting and nesting patterns.”

[via Yorkshire Post]

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Mutant “Blond” Penguin Spotted in Antarctica


Travelers on a National Geographic – Lindblad expedition to Antarctica came across a leucistic chinstrap penguin. Unusual light coloring sets this penguin apart from its black-and-white brethren. Often mistaken for albinos, leucistic birds have a genetic mutation that restricts the dissemination of pigment to feathers.

Source: National Geographic

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Penguin Palooza opens March 26

The Newport Aquarium’s newly renovated penguin exhibit sponsored by Kroger, dubbed “Penguin Palooza” will open its doors on March 26th, showcasing more penguins and even interactive features. Along with the King, Gentoo, and Chinstrap penguins, the exhibit will now feature six Rockhoppers making the Newport Aquarium’s penguin habitat one of the most diverse in the country. The Rockhopper is commonly recognized by its yellow crested feathers above its red eyes. Also they will be hosting six Inca Terns (not a penguin), a uniquely plumed bird found on the coasts of Peru and Chile. Of course, we can’t forget about the African Blackfooted penguins that aren’t in the regular exhibit since they’re temperate climate. Randy, Paula, and Simon are featured for the daily Penguin Parade and the Penguin Encounter up-close program.

The exhibit will feature rock formations which the aquarium had worked with experts to design, giving the penguins more variety in paths and nesting areas. There will also be a new show in store for guests with a presenter who will entertain guests with penguin facts and will interact with animated penguin characters on the exhibit’s new high definition video board. Guests will also enjoy newly, expanded seating to sit up close and watch the penguins play and swim. If that’s not enough, there will also be a Penguin Playground in which children will be able to entertain (and educate) themselves with interactive activities, maps of penguin habitats, “fast fact” video displays, and photo opportunities with life-size penguin sculptures.

Wow! What a revamp. I can’t wait to visit the Newport Aquarium to see their new exhibit. Annual Passholders will be able to get an hour sneak-peek on March 26 (9am-10am) while the doors open to the public at 10am. (Ooh! Wish I had a pass!) Their penguins are pretty much the sole reason I go to the aquarium. I’m glad they save the best for last.

[Penguin Palooza @ Newport Aquarium]

Newport Aquarium’s Newsletter – inDepth_Spring_2011

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Humboldt Penguins Feel at Home in Sofia’s Zoo

The eight Humboldt penguins which are housed in the Sofia Zoo for the third day now, are adapting normally and are in great condition.

The information was reported Saturday for the Bulgarian National Radio, BNR, by the Zoo Director, Dr. Ivan Ivanov.

“They have adapted almost in full, and it depends on the weather if they will be let out because the forecast for the beginning of the week is for freezing cold. They have not hatched in their natural environment and must be kept warm. We will let them out when temperatures reach at least 7 degrees Celsius. They walk, swim and are very interesting. They play with the workers and started eating fish” Ivanov says.

The penguins are going to stay at the Sofia Zoo for about a year to a year in a half. If they have offspring during this time, the babies are to remain in Sofia.


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Emperor Penguins grieve from the loss of their chicks

A heart-wrenching photograph of an Emperor penguin in grief over the death of many of their chicks. The cause of this mass death is unknown but scientists claim it’s not unheard of. With the reports of birds dropping from the skies, masses of fish floating in rivers, and whatnot, it gets me deeper with my appreciation of this particular animal. I’m sad to hear about this and don’t know exactly what else to say.



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Monterey Bay’s First African Penguin Chick

The Monterey Bay Aquarium has had their first ever African (or Blackfooted) penguin hatch on January 8, 2011.  Aw, that one’s a cutie. More details at the aquarium’s blog, Sea Notes. I really appreciate the extra information they give regarding the chick. Amazing stuff.

[via OurAmazingPlanet]

Update: A second african penguin was born on Tuesday, January 11th. Congratulations!

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