April 25th is World Penguin Day! 🐧 A day dedicated to the celebration of all 17 different species of this flightless bird, from the tiny Little Blue Penguin to the Emperor Penguin.
Now some of you may know that penguins have been my favourite animal for over a decade, so I thought I’d take some time to celebrate these beautiful creatures here, on my blog.
If you’d like to get involved yourself use the hashtag #WorldPenguinDay on social media, where you’ll find hundreds of people, zoos, and wildlife centres sharing photos and stories of these wonderful birds.
Be sure to catch Spike the King Penguin and his friends being fed at Birdland, via Facebook live, this afternoon! If you missed it, the video will also be posted on Spike’s Facebook page later on.
So now you know the importance of World Penguin Day, I’d like to share a few penguin facts with you – most of these have been learned from the keepers at Birdland, or watching Sir David Attenborough‘s nature shows on BBC Earth.
Penguins are found in the Southern Hemisphere and come in all sizes. The smallest is the little penguin from Australia and New Zealand, while the largest (and probably most famous) is the emperor penguin of Antarctica. Which has been pictured in movies such as Happy Feet, and documentaries such as March of the Penguins.
While these birds cannot fly, they are very adept at using their wings to propel themselves through the water. They have very small, tightly packed feathers to help them keep insulated in cold and marine environments.
When people think about penguins, they typically think of cold countries, more than likely due to how they’re shown in film and TV. However penguins in fact occupy a host of habitats, from forests in New Zealand to the volcanic islands of the Galapagos, and the beaches of southern Africa.
Yet sadly several of these species are now severely threatened, so World Penguin Day also helps to raise awareness, and show how you can help with their survival.
5 Major Threats to Penguins – and what you can do to help
There is a lot to love about penguins; they’re cute and comical on land, remarkable swimmers, and capable of migrating thousands of kilometres each year. But, like many species, human appreciation isn’t enough to help these birds from slipping towards extinction.
Today I’m going to share five major issues being faced by penguin populations today, and what you can do to help.
One of the biggest threats to many animals lives is climate change, and this is also true for penguins. The largest of the penguins – the Emperor Penguin in Antarctica – is greatly affected by ice melting as a result of climate change.
The melting ice affects the penguins food source of fish, and krill, which breeds and feeds under the sea ice. Often the penguins will have to travel further out to find a sustainable food source for themselves and their chicks. Sadly many chicks die of starvation before their parents are able to come back with food.
How can you help?
There are so many things you can do at home to be more eco-friendly and help to reduce climate change. Even simple changes like turning off lights when not in use or when you leave the room, switching to LED light bulbs, or saying no to single-use plastic, all have a positive impact.
This form of pollution is lethal and devastating to many marine environments, including those of penguins. When the oil covers their bodies it affects their ability to float, so they do not venture into the water in search of food. Which results in starvation in many cases. The oil also inhibits the ability to control their body temperature.
The penguins will often try and clean the oil from their feathers and end up swallowing it, which can cause various stomach problems, such as ulcers.
How can you help?
Check fuel and oil lines on vehicles and homes for good condition, and do not dump old oil products into drains. Accidental spills of any pollutants remain in ecosystems and have been shown to accumulate in polar regions.
If an oil spill happens near you, get involved with the cleanup. Organisations such as the International Bird Rescue (USA) are dedicated to the rehabilitation of birds after oil spills.
Penguins feed almost exclusively on fish, and when their food source is already limited by climate change, overfishing exacerbates the problem. As I said earlier, many penguins will need to travel further in search of food for themselves and their families, and will often die of starvation.
How can you help?
The best way to fight overfishing is by not eating seafood; however, if you really love seafood and would miss having it, make sure to check the Seafood Watch Lists to ensure the seafood you eat is caught or raised sustainably.
I’m sure you’ve heard by now about the horrifying numbers of plastic waste being dumped in our oceans every year. Which fish and other marine life, such as penguins, often mistake for food.
The ingested plastic builds up in the penguin’s stomach over time, causing major health issues and prevents it from digesting real food. But this isn’t the only issue – penguins can also get stuck in our plastic packaging, causing injury or even suffocation.
How you can help?
Start by cutting back on how much single-use plastic you buy, or consider going entirely plastic-free. There are many plastic-free options available on the market right now, so it’s a lot easier to make the switch. But it’s an on-going journey; one that I’m still working on myself.
You should also make sure to recycle and dispose of your household waste properly.
Illegal egg harvesting
Although it has been made illegal to harvest or eat penguin eggs. It still happens, as penguin eggs are considered a delicacy by some cultures, and uncontrolled harvesting can be devastating yo their population.
How can you help?
This one’s pretty straightforward… Don’t eat illegally obtained penguin eggs or support those that sell them.
Have you heard of World Penguin Day? If so, how will you be celebrating today? Let me know in the comments. 🐧