Aug 08 2007


Good day. This is Penguin 5 back from my extensive travels. I have seen a great many things and have spent some time relaxing. Gentle Yoga. Deep breathing. Meditation. It’s amazing how it helps to stare into the water and imagine a better world. I wish I could say it’s the solution but …

One day while waddling my way down to the water, it all came clear to me. Men are from Mars, Women from Venus, and for better or worse, we penguins are from Earth.

Not only does this help explain the human difficulty in maintaining relationships, but the very different perspective humans and penguins seem to have.

We only have this one, single planet – our home – to worry about. You seem to imagine leaving this one behind when it no longer suits your purpose.

Although I confess I never have really understood how many of you can actually expect to make it on the spaceships – or who will decide the passenger list.

We are here, really here, stuck on Earth. We struggle to stay alive. To survive the winter wind. To protect our young from predators. To survive our ever-increasing popularity. For it seems we have become cute. A tourist attraction.

Here we are. Take a look:


13000 Emperors – Bob Finks

Perhaps a few examples will help:

Rebecca Fox reports from New Zealand that

“The future of yellow-eyed penguins at Sandfly Bay on the Otago Peninsula could be under threat from unregulated tourism.

The accessibility of prime penguin-spotting sites had become common knowledge and Sandfly Bay had even found its way into travel guides, University of Otago zoology lecturer Dr Philip Seddon said.

Tourists in their thousands were finding their way to the bay.

Studies by his department showed penguins at Sandfly Bay exposed to unregulated tourism showed significantly lower breeding success and fledgling weights than sites visited infrequently.

Is this a surprise to you? Remember “There but for the grace of God go I.” Take a moment. Think penguin. Feel penguin. Be penguin. How happy are your feet?

Speaking about spaceships, here’s a species that never made it on board. Where’s Noah
when you need him?

Bye-bye Yangtze River dolphin:

The long-threatened Yangtze River dolphin in China is probably extinct, according to an international team of researchers who said this would mark the first whale or dolphin to be wiped out due to human activity.


The Yangtze River dolphin, with its distinctive long nose, is likely to have been lost to the planet for ever

The freshwater dolphin, or baiji, was last spotted several years ago and an intensive six-week search in late 2006 failed to find any evidence that one of the rarest species on earth survives, said Samuel Turvey, a conservation biologist, at the Zoological Society of London, who took part in the search.

He said the dolphin’s demise — which resulted from overfishing, pollution and lack of intervention — might serve as a cautionary tale and should spur governments and scientists to act to save other species verging on extinction.

I think I definitely need to take a moment. And some deep breathing. In with the good thoughts. In, one two three four five. Out with the negative. Out, one two three four five.

We’re not talking about some johnny-come-lately species here. This is the Baiji Yangtze River dolphin. A Chinese report puts it in greater perspective:

Regarded in China as the “goddess of the Yangtze”, the 20 million year old river dolphin was one of the world’s oldest species. The Baiji is the first large mammal brought to extinction as a result of human destruction to their natural habitat and resources.

In the beginning of the 1980s the Yangtze still had around 400 Baiji cavorting in its waters. However, the river dolphin became a victim of China’s rapidly growing economy. A 1997 survey still showed 13 confirmed sightings. The last confirmed sighting of a Baiji was in September 2004. QiQi, a dolphin male, who was rescued in 1980, died in July 2002 at the Institute of Hydrobiology in Wuhan.

The baiji was for more than 20 years among the most disputed conservation issues between chinese and western scientists. There has been especially in the nineties endless arguments and disputes about strategies how to save the species – whether to leave them in their natural habitat or capture and move them to a safe place like the Tian-e-Zhou Oxbow “Semi Natural” Reserve. “Now we do not have to discuss any longer. We have lost the race. The Baiji has gone”, said August Pfluger.

20 million years! Take a deep breath. That’s 20 million years! So then the question is how long have people lived on Earth:

Fixing a time when the human race actually came into existence is not a straightforward matter. Various ancestors of Homo sapiens seem to have appeared at least as early as 700,000 B.C. Hominids walked the Earth as early as several million years ago. According to the United Nations’ Determinants and Consequences of Population Trends, modern Homo sapiens may have appeared about 50,000 B.C.

Now there are still an awful lot of humans who want nothing to do with the early hominids. So let’s leave the answer somewhere between several million and 52,000 years. That still gives the Baiji Yangtze River dolphin at least a 10:1 time advantage.

Imagine how hard it must have been to survive for 20 million years! They did pretty darn good until they ran into the Men from Mars and the Women from Venus!

And just in case you feel like blaming the dolphin, add this story into the mix. According to an article by Martyn McLaughlin in The Scotsman, the Scottish puffin population
is starving as a result of climate change.


In the darkness of their burrows, the puffin chicks starve to death while food lies decomposing in front of them.

They are not able to swallow the snake pipefish brought back from the North Sea by their parents because it is covered in a hard exo-skeleton.

With no fat on their bodies, the pufflings soon perish. Shunned even by predators, they are left to decay atop the cliffs of St Kilda – the latest victims of climate change.

Come on kids. These puffins are cute. Almost as cute as penguins. Well that’s asking for too much, but pretty cute nonetheless. How about making some “SAVE THE PUFFIN” posters and getting out on those Scottish streets!

The article continues:

With about half of Britain’s population, few of the World Heritage Site’s puffins are coming of age, which some conservationists say is leaving the entirety of the birds’ population “verging on catastrophe” …

Yet barely over half of the eggs hatched fledged chicks last year. While that figure of 57 per cent represents an increase on 2005’s all-time low of 26 per cent, it remains perilously below the average, which stands at about 71 per cent.

Across other sites in Scotland, the threat to the puffin population is equally severe …

Conservation experts have told The Scotsman, the issue is inextricably bound to the mismanagement of Scotland’s waters.

Over the past two decades, the surface temperature in the southern North Sea has risen by 2C.

It appears at first to be a negligible increase, but it is playing out a complex choreography on the food needed during the seabirds’ breeding seasons.

Whereas once the puffins, also known as sea parrots, thrived on the likes of oil-rich sand eels, young herring, or sprats, they are now forced to eke out what little nutritional value is available from snake pipefish, which until recently, was rarely seen.

Whoops! A 2C rise in temperature and all of a sudden the puffins are “verging on catastrophe.”

Oh well I promised Penguins 2 and 4 I’d offer you something entertaining.

Forget starving puffins for a moment. Have you heard these:

“According to a new U.N. report, the global warming outlook is much worse than originally predicted. Which is pretty bad when they originally predicted it would destroy the planet.” –Jay Leno

“According to a survey in this week’s Time magazine, 85% of Americans think global warming is happening. The other 15% work for the White House.” –Jay Leno

“Has anybody seen the Al Gore movie about global warming and the environment? Well, the Bush administration has seen it and they are very annoyed about the whole thing. As a matter of fact, earlier today, Dick Cheney shot a projectionist. … One very dramatic scene in the Al Gore global warming movie is when a glacier melts and they find more Al Gore ballots from the election.” –David Letterman

There’s always Mars for Men and Venus for Women!

And for those of us left behind some deep breathing. In with the good thoughts. In, one two three four five. Out with the negative. Out, one two three four five.

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