The Beacon

Blog Tags: Penguins

Video: Adorable New Robot Helps Researchers Study Emperor Penguins in Antarctica

A new penguin is helping researchers study emperor penguins

Emperor penguins in Antarctica. A new robot is lending clues about their behavior. (Photo: Christopher Michel / Flickr Creative Commons)

While studying penguins in Antarctica may seem like a rewarding task, it’s undoubtedly a difficult one. Emperor penguins are said to be quite shy, so their heart rates increase and they tend to change their behavior when humans enter their colonies. This left scientists with inaccurate data on penguin health and other measurements, and in need of a way to probe into their Antarctic world without disturbing them too much.


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Ocean News: Mercury Levels Rising in Surface Waters, Penguin Species Threatened by Habitat Degradation, and More

King Penguins (Aptenodytes patagonicus) in the Falkland Islands

King Penguins (Aptenodytes patagonicus) in the Falkland Islands are a species threatened by habitat degradation. (Photo: Graham Canny / Flickr Creative Commons)

- According to a new study, mercury levels in many of the world oceans’ surface waters have tripled due to human activity. Because mercury drains into the ocean from mines, coal-fired plants, and sewage, mercury levels are higher in surface waters compared to the deep ocean. The Guardian


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Ocean News: Climate Change Making Penguins Hungry, Underwater Volcano Discovered, and More

Gentoo penguin with its chick

A Gentoo penguin with its chick. (Photo: Liam Quinn / Flickr Creative Commons)

- New research shows that three Antarctic penguin species—the Adélie, chinstrap, and gentoo—thrived during the last warming event 15,000 years ago, growing their populations as ice retreat opened bare ground for nesting.


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More Than 600 Seabirds and Penguins Found Dead

600 guaynay cormorants and penguins like this one were discovered dead on the beaches of northern Chile. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Last month, in the Coquimbo region of northern Chile, more than 600 guanay cormorants and penguins were found dead on the beaches. The citizen control that monitors the area reported that on May 10, ten fishing boats were seen approaching the beach opposite the Los Choros ravine. Two days later, the Movement in Defense of the Environment (MODEMA) reports, the first dead beached birds were discovered – boobies, Yeco ducks, pelicans, and Humboldt penguins among them. The National Fisheries Service has confirmed the death of these species on-site, and the Chilean Navy is inspecting vessels there.

The question then becomes – what caused this mass death of birds, and are these fishing boats responsible?


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Happy World Penguin Day!

Clockwise from upper left: Chinstrap, Emperor, Gentoo, Southern Rockhopper, Adélie. Courtesy of Pew Environment.

Though penguins are known for their impeccable black tie fashion, they come in a variety of shapes, sizes, styles, and personalities.  From the little penguin in Australia to Antarctica’s emperor penguin, we celebrate each of them today.  Even the jackass gets a little recognition on World Penguin Day.


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Protecting Penguins and More in Antarctica

Penguins hunting. © John Weller

Oceana has joined the Antarctic Ocean Alliance, an international collective of environmental organizations and high-profile supporters that have come together to call for the world’s largest network of marine protected areas and no-take marine reserves to be established in Antarctica’s Southern Ocean.

Antarctic waters make up almost 10% of the world’s seas and are some of the most pristine left on earth. Home to almost 10,000 unique and diverse species such as penguins, seals and whales, these waters are now at risk from the impacts of commercial fishing and climate change. The Alliance is calling for 19 critical habitats in Antarctica’s Southern Ocean to be protected, starting with the Ross Sea.

The Alliance released a report today entitled “Antarctic Ocean Legacy: A marine reserve for the Ross Sea," which provides the rationale for protection of the Ross Sea region. If established, it would be the world’s largest fully protected marine reserve, totalling 3.6 million square kilometres.

Alliance members and supporters include actor Edward Norton, Oceanographer Dr. Sylvia Earle, entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson, as well as more than a dozen other environmental and conservation organizations.

The regulatory body responsible for this region – the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) – has agreed to create a network of marine protected areas in some of the ocean around Antarctica. However, CCAMLR meets with limited public participation and no media access and the Alliance believes that, without public attention during the process, only minimal protection will be achieved.

The Alliance launched a video featuring interviews with Edward Norton and Sylvia Earle asking the public to sign a petition calling for large-scale marine protection for Antarctica. Check it out and let us know what you think!


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Marine Monday: Antarctic Krill

What do blue whales, penguins and salmon have in common?

They all have the same diet. Much of the ocean is fed by a two-inch crustacean: krill. Antarctic krill congregate in huge masses in the Southern Ocean, dense enough to fill the belly of a blue whale, the world’s largest animal.

Penguins will march hundreds of miles to feast on krill, building up blubber that will help them survive their cold months on land. Even flying seabirds will dive in and partake of the abundance.

Without this tiny creature, the ocean would starve. But like so much else in the ocean, krill’s future is in danger. It is also a popular food for salmon, giving the fish’s meat that distinctive pink color. When humans build fish farms for predatory fish like salmon, we need to feed them. And that means that humans are now fishing krill to feed our farms, taking away potential meals from whales, penguins, and other wild creatures.

Oceana is working to prevent the overfishing of krill and the other small creatures that keep the oceans’ food chain going. To learn more about marine animals like Antarctic krill, visit our marine wildlife encyclopedia.


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Ocean Victories of 2011: Thank You!

© Oceana/Eduardo Sorensen

Andy Sharpless is the CEO of Oceana.

As we enter the last weeks of 2011, I’d like to thank you again for your support this year. Even as we continue to face global economic insecurity, your support has made it possible for Oceana to win important victories for the oceans.

Here are just a few of the victories you helped us achieve in 2011:

This is a special year for Oceana, because it’s also our 10th anniversary year. In 2001, our founders decided that the world needed a conservation organization that could win real policy changes for the oceans on an international scale.

Since then, Oceana has expanded to six countries, garnered more than half a million supporters and protected 1.2 million square miles of ocean, including innumerable sea turtles, sharks, dolphins and the people who depend upon and enjoy the oceans. Our founders are pleased with the results, and we hope you are as well.

We continue to have ambitious goals, not just for 2012, but the next decade. I hope you’ll continue to join us for the ride. Thank you again.


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New Zealand Oil Spill Brings Reminders of Gulf Spill

little blue penguin

A little blue penguin covered in oil. © Jeremy Gray/Flickr

Matthew Huelsenbeck is a marine scientist at Oceana.

A cargo ship has wrecked on a reef off the coast of New Zealand and the oil spill and wreckage is being called the worst maritime environmental disaster in the country’s history.

Reminders of last year’s Gulf oil spill are playing out as oil is lapping up on some of New Zealand’s most popular beaches, and hazmat suit workers are attempting to clean it up. Graphic images are emerging of oil soaked penguins and birds washing up dead.

Videos show the cargo ship tilted at a severe angle and it is feared to be splitting in half. Several of the cargo containers hold hazardous materials that could ignite in flames when in contact with water. New Zealand’s emergency response team is having difficulties containing the spill and accessing the ship due to high seas and strong winds. 

During a college study abroad at the University of Auckland, I experienced the unspoiled beaches of New Zealand, and the little blue penguins that are now washing ashore dead. New Zealand’s respect for the coastlines and marine life has given them great protection and status in their country, so this is indeed a sad day for their citizens and all of us who appreciate the oceans. I hope that the political response in New Zealand to this disaster is better than what has happened so far in the United States, which is a whole lot of talk and no action.

Here in the U.S., Shell is pushing to drill for oil in the Arctic Ocean and making outrageous claims that they could clean up after an oil spill under even more extreme weather, seasonal darkness, sea ice, and no harbors. Previous spill cleanup drills in the Arctic have failed miserably. 

America still has a chance! Protect walruses and seals by helping us keep similar oil spills out of the Arctic Ocean.


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