22 December 2013

Festive penguin parades raise questions about animal welfare

They're cute and live in the snow (well, some of them do), so penguins seem to be a natural fit for festive decorations and activities. But reports of live penguins being used in Christmas parades has raised animal welfare concerns.  

19 December 2013

Traffic jams lend insight into emperor penguin huddle

Emperor penguins
Photo credit: Daniel Zitterbart
ANTARCTICA - Emperor penguins maintain the tight huddle that protects them from the harsh conditions of an Antarctic winter with stop-and-go movements like cars in a traffic jam, a new study has shown.

By using a mathematical model that recreated the positions, movements and interactions of individual penguins in a huddle, researchers have revealed that an individual penguin only needs to move 2cm in any direction for its neighbour to react and also perform a step to stay close to it.

15 November 2013

Calgary Zoo looks to protect penguins from aspergillosis

On 10 November, staff at the Calgary Zoo made the difficult decision to euthanise a 14-year-old male gentoo penguin Houdini after he had been sick for almost a month.

The results of a necropsy confirmed severe aspergillosis – a fungal infection that affects the respiratory system. It is one of the most common causes of death in captive penguins and has been recorded in wild penguins. 

Was penguin evolution driven by a cooling Antarctic?

By Sankar Subramanian, Griffith University

This article was originally published at The Conversation. Read the original article

Some like it hot: Galapagos penguins
enjoy a tropical climate. ms akr
Penguins are a remarkable group of flightless birds. We tend to think of them as Antarctic birds, but they actually inhabit an extremely diverse range of habitats from subzero Antarctic coastline to the tropical Galapagos Islands. Research we published on 13 November in the Biology Letters gives us new insight into how this diverse group evolved.

There are now 18 recognised species of penguins. All live predominantly in the Southern Hemisphere (those Galapagos penguins being the exception), in a wide range of climates.

10 November 2013

Penguin Island reopens after rat baiting success

AUSTRALIA - Penguin Island, home to Western Australia’s largest little penguin colony, has reopened to visitors after a successful baiting program targeting destructive black rats.

Environment Minister Albert Jacob said up to 5,000 rats had been eliminated from the island, increasing the chances of penguins and other seabirds breeding successfully.

02 November 2013

West Coast little penguins tracked by satellite

NEW ZEALAND - The West Coast Blue Penguin Trust is undertaking a pilot programme to see where little blue penguins go to find food.

The study will use Global Positioning System (GPS) tracking technology to monitor the penguins as they head out into the Tasman Sea to find food for their chicks. Eight tiny GPS units were attached to blue penguins at Charleston in October and their foraging journeys can now be mapped.

The pilot study is the start of a three-year programme. It's the first of its kind undertaken by the West Coast Blue Penguin Trust and the first time blue penguins have been tracked on the West Coast. The goal is to build a more complete picture of penguin foraging patterns over time.

24 October 2013

First known penguin MRI a success

USA - When middle-aged penguin Fluffy arrived at the University of Minnesota Veterinary Medical Center in late July, he was having trouble balancing, standing and waddling.

The male penguin’s radiograph and blood work from his visit to the University's Raptor Center didn't identified the cause of his illness, so veterinarian Micky Trent ordered the next step in diagnostic testing: a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan.

22 October 2013

Ancient penguin history on the agenda this Australian Antarctic season

AUSTRALIA - This Antarctic summer, Australian Antarctic Division seabird ecologist Dr Barbara Wienecke will head a "penguin archaeology" project on abandoned Adélie penguin sites to try to find out whether the birds’ diet may have changed over the past few thousand years.

09 October 2013

The race to save the African penguin is on

Five penguins. Seven days. One race against time.

SOUTH AFRICA - Since the turn of the 20th century we have lost 99% of the entire African penguin population due to the decline of fish, oil spills, loss of habitat and imbalanced ecosystems.

Running from 7 to 13 October, the Penguin Run project celebrates the perilous journey undertaken by five African penguins. The birds have been fitted with satellite tracking devices and will take to the high seas in a race to bulk up ahead of their fast approaching moulting season, where they will lose over half of their body weight.

18 September 2013

Innovative surgical devices save inquisitive penguins

UK – Two important points to take away from veterinary surgeon Romain Pizzi's presentation at the recent 8th International Penguin Conference are: one, Edinburgh Zoo's penguins have a habit of swallowing things they shouldn't; and two, those penguins should be grateful for skilled vets and innovative surgical instruments.

Royal Zoological Society of Scotland vet Mr Pizzi, a pioneer in using minimally invasive surgery techniques, told the conference how he used instruments designed by Leeds-based company Surgical Innovations to carry out keyhole surgery on penguins who had swallowed foreign objects.

10 September 2013

Tracking African penguins: phase two

SOUTH AFRICA - Conservation organisation BirdLife South Africa initiated the second phase of its African Penguin Satellite Tracking Project (APST Project) at Dassen Island, just of the west coast of Cape Town, over the weekend. The project team was joined by media representatives and partner GreenMatter.

05 September 2013

Blue penguin highway death toll rising

Credit: West Coast Blue
Penguin Trust.
NEW ZEALAND – A heart-breaking sight greeted West Coast Blue Penguin Trust supporter and Fox River resident Fiona McDonald last Sunday: yet another little blue penguin road death.

To make matters worse, this penguin was one of just six counted in the area as part of the 2013 blue penguin census. Fiona picked up no less than three penguins killed on this stretch of the coast road last month, adding to the sad statistics for penguin road deaths.

04 September 2013

Deep diving penguins and deeply passionate penguin experts

Diving emperor penguins during a
foraging trip from the Cape
Washington colony in Antarctica.
Credit: Paul Ponganis, University
of California.
Emperor penguins can dive to depths of over 500m and stay underwater for up to 27 minutes – deeper and longer than any other bird species. Now research has revealed that one of the factors behind their amazing dives is their ability to slow their heart rate. ­

Researchers Alexandra Wright and Dr Paul Ponganis from the University of California will present their new findings this week at the 8th International Penguin Conference (IPC), which is being held in Bristol from 2 to 6 September.

28 August 2013

Wayward NZ penguin homeward bound after unusual trip to Australia

AUSTRALIA - A New Zealand Fiordland penguin, nicknamed Columbus, is set for a long distance swim across the Tasman after his release from care at the Phillip Island Nature Parks Wildlife Shelter.

Columbus, one of only 6000 Fiordland penguins left in the wild, was 1800 kilometres off course when found by rangers at a Wilson’s Promontory beach. He was severely underweight and transported to the Phillip Island Nature Parks Wildlife Shelter for care.

09 July 2013

Breeding bonanza on Phillip Island

AUSTRALIA – Forget the outer suburbs of Melbourne, Phillip Island is topping the stakes as the best location for raising families – at least if you’re a little penguin.

Researchers from Phillip Island Nature Parks have crunched the numbers and last summer’s breeding season for the world’s smallest penguin was the best since 1990, proving size doesn’t matter.

“An average 1.41 chicks were fledged per female, up from 1.29 in the previous breeding season.” said Dr Peter Dann, research manager at the parks.

06 July 2013

Cellular activity helps chicks survive fasting in the cold

King penguin chick at
Possession Island, Crozet Archipelago
Credit: Pierre-Axel Monternier
SUBANTARCTIC – A new study shows that king penguin chicks survive harsh winters with almost no food by minimising the cost of energy production.

The study, presented at the Society for Experimental Biology meeting in Valencia on the 3 July, shows that mitochondria – the powerhouses of the cell – are more efficient in fasted king penguin chicks.

30 May 2013

Penguin diving through the scales of time

Little penguin.
Photo credit: Phillip Island Nature Parks.
AUSTRALIA - An international research team has uncovered complex patterns in little penguin dives and revealed a sophisticated level of organised and adaptive behaviour.

The detailed patterns are like the repeated design on a head of broccoli, or the intricate geometry found in growing crystals, swirling galaxies and heart rates. The term “fractals” is used to describe these repeated patterns across varying spatial or temporal scales.

25 May 2013

Conservationists call for wider set net ban to save yellow-eyed penguins

Yellow-eyed penguin.
Photo credit: Craig Mckenzie
NEW ZEALAND – Forest & Bird has called for an immediate extension to a ban on commercial and recreational set-netting around Otago Peninsula – a move that has angered the area’s commercial fishermen, the Otago Daily Times reported.

Karen Baird, Forest & Bird Seabird Advocate, said that because yellow-eyed penguins feed in the coastal waters that set nets are used in, they are a prime example of a species whose chances of survival would improve with better controls on set nets.

Why are penguins flightless? It’s evolutionary

Chinstrap penguin.
Photo credit: Kyle Elliott and Uli Kunz.
The mystery of the flightless tuxedoed bird has intrigued many of us, scientists included.

“Like many people,” said Professor John Speakman, “I have been fascinated by films of penguins walking across the Antarctic ice, and wondered why on earth they lost the ability to fly.”

Speakman, from the University of Aberdeen, Scotland, and the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, is part of an international research team that collected data solving the puzzle of why penguins don’t take to the skies.