This week I read an endearing story by Chris Kitchin in the Daily Mail about the Penguin Walk at Japan’s Asahiyama Zoo. Keepers take the penguins out for a 30-minute stroll at the zoo twice a day while adoring fans from all over the world look on. People can even take photos of the penguins as long as they do not use flash.
Richie Johns on flickr / Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 GenericIt reminded me of movie stars on the red carpet.
According to UK photographer Paul Brown:
"The penguins were really professional and ignored their adoring fans and the constant clicking of cameras. They had obviously done this before and didn't need any coaxing along the path. They stayed clear of the crowd at all times, but never once did they appear scared, taking the whole event in their stride, or should that be waddle."
Wonder why they are being walked twice a day? Apparently to keep them trim and fit which is hard to do in their enclosures, particularly in wintertime. The walks occur December through March.
And Japan isn't the only place penguins go for walks.
In Canada, the Calgary Zoo also hosts a king penguin walk. It occurs once a day at 10:00 am. In fact, in 2012 the Calgary Zoo opened the largest permanent penguin exhibit in North America.
Animal curator and biologist, Dr. Malu Celli, added, "The consistency of offering them a daily opportunity to take a short walk in the winter reduces stress, which is a major factor affecting overall health of the birds."
As of January 17th, 2014, the seven marching penguins at the Calgary Zoo are named: Arthur, Diana, Hera, Grace, Solomon, Caesar, and Tut.
Penguin Willing and Weather Permitting
The Penguin Walk at the Calgary Zoo by Steve Vanhell
Penguins and Polar Bears Never Found Together
Or Are They?
Greenpeace InternationalGsd97jks on Wikipedia / Public Domain confirms that penguins are only found (in the wild) in the southern hemisphere and likewise, polar bears are only found in the northern hemisphere.
But interestingly enough, in Dave Walsh's post Why there are no penguins in the Arctic, he reminds us that the true northern ‘penguin’ was the now-extinct Great Auk (Pinguinis impennis) which didn't live in the arctic but was found in an area spanning Newfoundland and Greenland to Scotland. He wrote, "it didn’t really stray farther north than Iceland."
So, to be fair to those who've seen depictions of penguin-like birds such as the Great Auk's closest surviving relative, the razorbill (or in French, petit pingouin) around polar bears, hypothetically, it could happen in the northern hemisphere.
Photo shown is of a razorbill at bird cliff in Westfjords, Iceland (August 2005).
The Current Status of 18 Species of Penguins
Generally listed in order from worst to best status:
David Stanley on flickr / Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 GenericThe IUCN Red List of Threatened Species lists the following species of penguins as endangered and their populations are decreasing:
Northern Rockhopper Penguin
The following species are vulnerable and also declining in numbers:
Southern Rockhopper Penguin - according to the pattern under its wings, I believe this photo is of the southern rockhopper penguin.
Jamie Davies on flickr / Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 GenericMacaroni Penguin - shown at right.
These next two species are vulnerable, but at least their populations are stable:
Eugene Regis on flickr / Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 GenericNear threatened and their populations are slipping:
Gentoo Penguin - shown on their bellies in the photo at right.
Magellanic Penguin - shown further along in my article.
Near threatened but with a stable population is the Emperor Penguin and happily, the near threatened Adelie Penguin is actually increasing in numbers.
Of least concern are the following types of penguins: King Penguin (their populations are on the rise), Little (aka Blue) Penguin (populations are declining though), and the Chinstrap Penguin (which is also increasing in numbers).
The Global Penguin Society has put together an incredible database detailing the facts about each of the 18 species of penguins I've listed above.
King Penguins Are Doing Well
Chicks depend on their parents for food for over a year
Adélie Penguins are listed as "Near Threatened"
But are thankfully increasing in numbers now
Emperor Penguins are also "Near Threatened"
But have a "stable" population currently
Magellanic Penguins are "Near Threatened"
And their populations are decreasing, unfortunately
And Talk About Keeping Calm
Christopher Michel on flickr / Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 GenericAs I was researching the various types of penguins for this article, I came across a 1:39 second YouTube video narrated by one of my heroes, Sir David Attenborough (shown next).
Penguins all need to shed their feathers and produce a new coat that can withstand the cold winter months.
Incredibly, Chinstrap penguins starve themselves (losing 1/2 their body weight) while they shed their feathers. For three long weeks they remain standing up while the feathers are blown off their bodies. They need to endure this in order to have warm, waterproof coats that protect them from their icy environment.
Penguin Colony Shed Feathers at Once!
Published on July 25th, 2014 by BBC Earth
Emperor Penguins Parenting
Christopher Michel on flickr / Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 GenericI found it fascinating to watch this next video also narrated by Sir David Attenborough. In it, you'll actually witness a baby emperor penguin hatching.
Only emperor penguins breed during the Antarctic winter. In breeding colonies, where thousands gather, females lay one egg between May and June.
It's the male that incubates the egg (fasting on his feet) keeping it warm for 62 days while the female feeds at sea. Don't worry, the mother does return to relieve the male emperor penguin.
And, once hatched, both parents take turns searching for food and returning to feed or care for their chick.
Incredibly, these chicks socialize just like human teenagers. As Sir David Attenborough states, "They actually form teenage gangs that hang out together."