Subject: Seabits:New England Aquarium Seabits 1.6 (fwd)

mike williamson (
Mon, 1 Dec 1997 21:21:46 -0500 (EST)


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Date: Mon, 1 Dec 1997 15:03:33 -0500
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Subject: New England Aquarium Seabits 1.6

New England Aquarium Monthly e-mail Newsletter
Volume 1, Issue 6, December, 1997
Copyright, New England Aquarium, 1997.
While everyone else is preparing for the holidays, here at the New England
Aquarium, we're positively penguin. Planet of the Penguins, our second
annual hoopla celebrating the cutest darn flightless fowl, hits Earth on
the weekend of December 6 and 7. This issue of Seabits celebrates that
second coming with three little ditties on penguins in Boston and in the
wild. Many, many thanks to aquarist Jenn Guille, who assembled all of this
information for our reading pleasure.

In this issue:
    Watery Words
       Blue Waddlers Await Spring Debut
       Penguins: Good News/Bad News on Oil Spills
       Counting Beaks on Desert Islands
    Out On The Net
    West Wing Update
    Planet of the Penguins
    December Calendar
    Subscribe/Unsubscribe Information
    Contact Us

=3D-=3D-=3D WATERY WORDS =3D-=3D-=3D-=3D-=3D-=3D-=3D-=3D-=3D-=3D-=3D-=3D-=

   "Ford, you're turning into a penguin. Stop it."

                           - Arthur Dent
                             From "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy"
                             by Douglas Adams

=3D-=3D-=3D STORIES =3D-=3D-=3D-=3D-=3D-=3D-=3D-=3D-=3D-=3D-=3D-=3D-=3D-=3D=
This month's stories:
  1) Little Blue Penguins
  2) African Penguins and Oil Spills
  3) Aquarium Staff Assists African Penguin Census

----- BLUE WADDLERS AWAIT SPRING DEBUT ------------------------------------
Seven little blue penguins now live behind the scenes in the Aquarium "bird
room" awaiting their spring debut, when they will join the African and
Rockhopper colonies in our penguin exhibit. Tomeranaray, Martidekker,
Gur-roo-mul, Melbourne, Tasmania, Phillip, and Eudyptula came from the
Melbourne Zoo in Australia. They are the smallest species of penguin in
the world, lighter and smaller than a ski boot. They're much less suited
for snow, however. These guys are native to the rocky and sandy southern
coasts of Australia and throughout New Zealand.

All of the little blues we have at the Aquarium were born in captivity.
They are the offspring of parents that had been rescued as sick or injured
birds in the wild. In most cases, rescued birds are rehabilitated and
released; the ones deemed unlikely to survive on their own often end up at
zoos and aquariums.

Although little blue penguins are not considered to be a threatened
population, they do face many threats in the wild. They are often hit by
cars, and are sometimes the unlucky victims of hungry cats, rats, snakes
and dogs on land. Little blue penguins in the wild are protected by strict
regulations of the Australian Nature Conservancy.

In Australia, little blue penguins make their homes well above the high
tide line, in underbrush, under rocks or in homemade "fox holes" in the
sand. They share their little homes with one mate. Like clockwork, every
morning before sunrise, the thousands of little blues that make up a
rookery wake and march to the water, where they hunt for food all day. At
dusk, they regroup, emerge again from the waves, and travel en masse to the
dunes to feed their young and rest. This "penguin parade" is so popular
that people have built viewing stands along the age-old, flipper-worn
pathways to watch the procession.

The little blues we have at the Aquarium range in age from 10 months to
three years. Their life expectancy is seven to eight years in the wild,
and the only other institution to have a colony of little penguins is the
Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha, Nebraska. While they await the big move to their
new exhibit home, they are happy and healthy. There are even signs of
romance--okay, pair bonding--on the horizon. You can the little blue
penguins them at the New England Aquarium, through windows in the Aquarium
Medical Center East Wing.

Droplet: According to a 1994 study, little blue penguins are the most
likely seabirds in southern Australia to come into contact with oil spills
at sea. Several thousand birds were affected in the Iron Baron oil spill
in northern Tasmania in 1995.

In 1994, the Apollo Seas oil spill took the lives of some 5,300 African
penguins in one week. The good news is that of a total of 10,000 penguins
affected, some 4,700 were de-oiled and released back to the wild. Through
a three year study, Dr. Tony Williams, an ornithologist with Cape Nature in
South Africa, found that most survived and are breeding. It's a small,
encouraging step for a population that scientists estimate could go extinct
by 2040.

Dr. Williams' study offers the best evidence yet that de-oiled seabirds
survive for months to years following rehabilitation. Oils spills are
perhaps the biggest and most terrifying problem the African penguin and
other sea birds such as gannets, cormorants, gulls, and terns now face. The
large ships which round South Africa's Cape of Good Hope pass by 1/3 of the
country's seabird breeding population.

Williams' study looks for answers to crucial questions such as these: what
effect does age have on survival? is it justifiable to rear chicks found
orphaned in the wild? what percentage of de-oiled birds return to breeding
islands and how long does it take? do de-oiled penguins breed and how
successful are they compared to controls?

Dr. Williams determined in his study that out of 2,722 de-oiled adults,
84.7 percent returned while only 10.4 percent of de-oiled juveniles and 6.8
percent of orphans were seen again on Dassen Island. This indicates that
in triage situations after an oil spill, adult birds should be
rehabilitated first. It appears that only 60 percent of the birds that
return breed within three years. They are not as successful as other
birds, especially if both parents are de-oiled birds.

The African penguin is endemic to the coast of South Africa and Namibia.
Considered a threatened species, they have experienced an 84 percent
population decline between 1956-85. The reasons for the dramatic decline
are well known. According to Dr. Williams, it all started with the
harvesting of seabird guano (hundreds of years of layers of penguin
droppings) from breeding islands. Guano, commonly used for fertilizer, was
40 feet thick in some areas, providing a softer surface in which penguins
could dig their burrows. Egg harvesting also affected the population; six
million eggs have been collected in this century. To further complicate
matters, humans have linked breeding islands to the mainland through
bridges and boats, in the process introducing new land predators. In
addition, very abundant fur seals are estimated to eat eight percent of the
adult African penguin population each year.

With so many threats and so few penguins, we applaud Williams' study for
showing that it's well worth the time, money, and pain to rehabilitate this
very threatened penguin.

Droplet: Most birds have hollow bones, making them lighter for flying.
Penguins, on the other hand, have heavier, solid bones, enabling them
to dive underwater for food.

----- COUNTING BEAKS ON REMOTE ISLANDS ------------------------------------
Far from a luxurious winter vacation to the tropics, Aquarium penguin
expert Heather Urquhart is now near the conclusion of a six-week tour of
South Africa and Namibia

Heather is=9Fa=9F participating in the Namibian government census of Africa=
penguins. The penguin breeding islands she's visiting originally belonged
to South Africa, and were just recently turned over to the Namibian
government. The census, designed to track and hopefully reverse the
decline of the African penguin, is fairly new for Namibia's equivalent to
the US's National Marine Fisheries Service.

To save face for the majority of us who've only seen penguin rookeries as
expanses of black and white birds on a color TV, let me just ask (and
answer) the most important question: how do they know they're not counting
the same birds twice? Census occurs during breeding and rearing season, and
counters concentrate on nesting sites. They count and weigh chicks while
parents feed at sea. Because African penguins are true to their mates and
their nests, it's fair to assume that each burrow equals a mom, a pop, and
up to two chicks. Current estimates put the world population of African
penguins at about 180,000 adult birds. That number reflects a decrease of
about 20 percent in the last three generations.

It's a tough world for an African penguin. In addition to the threats
listed in the previous article, African penguins compete with humans for
food. The staple of their diet is also a favorite for humans: anchovy and
pilchard. If we overfish for these species, penguins can't get the food
they need, and their chicks die. In general, the chick mortality rate is
high, though the breeding season is long and penguins may lay up to three
clutches per season.

The work that zoo and aquarium staff do with birds in the wild is crucial.
It enriches their experience with the animals they care for on a day to day
basis, and it connects them with research in the field. And, their daily
care for penguins both informs researchers and helps the success rate of
wildlife rehabilitation programs. This winter's trip is Heather's third
visit to So. Africa, funded by the African Penguin Conservation Fund (which
she helped to establish). She's traveling with Steve Sarro of the Baltimore
Zoo. Heather and Steve will be visiting several aquariums and zoos in South
Africa that house African penguins. They will also visit SANCCOB, the South
African National Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds, which
rehabilitates oiled seabirds, including penguins.

Droplet: There are 17 species of penguin. The largest is the four-foot,
90-pound emperor penguin found in Antarctica. The smallest is the little

=3D-=3D-=3D OUT ON THE NET =3D-=3D-=3D-=3D-=3D-=3D-=3D-=3D-=3D-=3D-=3D-=3D-=
For additional information, you might want to check out the following
websites. Some of these links represent partners in aquatic conservation
and animal husbandry; others are simply resources we think may help you
enrich your perspective on our watery world. By listing these websites, the
New England Aquarium is not automatically endorsing or verifying the
accuracy of their content unless explicitly stated.

Little Blue Penguins:

Penguins and Oil Spills:

Penguin Census:

=3D-=3D-=3D WEST WING UPDATE =3D-=3D-=3D-=3D-=3D-=3D-=3D-=3D-=3D-=3D-=3D-=
(November 26, 1997) Today, after fourteen months of construction, New
England Aquarium visitors can enter through the doors of the brand new West
Wing. Though the West Wing expansion project won't be complete until we
open "Coastal Rhythms: Creatures on the Edge" in January, visitors this
holiday season can get a special preview of what is to come. Just after
Thanksgiving, we open the new, larger gift shop. Ok, so maybe we're a
little biased... but it *is* a great place to get very unique holiday gifts
for the nature lovers on your list. A short sample: beautiful photo books
on sea animals, nature field guides, educational books, and games for kids,
jewelry, funky mugs, glassware, puppets, plush animals, baseball hats, top
quality fish prints and ties featuring the work of renowned artist Sarah
Landry... and a heck of a lot more. By mid-December, we'll open our new
West Wing restaurant, which is being run by an all-new catering company.
The grand finale is January 10, when we unveil Coastal Rhythms, our biggest
special exhibit ever! Stay tuned. This is just the beginning of a major
expansion that will triple our size by about 2002.

=3D-=3D-=3D PLANET OF THE PENGUINS =3D-=3D-=3D-=3D-=3D-=3D-=3D-=3D-=3D-=3D-=
The New England Aquarium has declared December 6-7 to be the two days when
penguins rule the earth. (Well, at the very least, they rule on Central
Wharf.) In our second annual weekend-long event, Planet of the Penguins,
we highlight these feathered critters with a series of live animal
programs, craft and educational activities, and talks by penguin experts.
For kids, there's face painting, temporary penguin tatoos, craft
activities, take home coloring activities, and publications. Last year
was a lot of fun. We hope you'll join us this year!

=3D-=3D-=3D DECEMBER CALENDAR =3D-=3D-=3D-=3D-=3D-=3D-=3D-=3D-=3D-=3D-=3D-=
Planet of the Penguins, December 6-7. Join us for two days of positively
pure penguin fun.

Penguin Explorers Class, Saturday, December 13, 11 A.M. Ages 6-9 are
invited to investigate animals and habitats with hands-on aquatic
activities. $4.00 per child for members and $8.00 per child for nonmembers.
Children must be accompanied by an adult and there is no fee for the adult
participant. Fee does not include Aquarium admission. Call (617) 973-5232
for registration information.

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=3D-=3D-=3D CONTACT US =3D-=3D-=3D-=3D-=3D-=3D-=3D-=3D-=3D-=3D-=3D-=3D-=3D-=
Content questions and comments? Contact Susan Gedutis at

Technical questions and comments? Contact Bruce Wyman at

=3D-=3D-=3D THAT'S ALL FOLKS =3D-=3D-=3D-=3D-=3D-=3D-=3D-=3D-=3D-=3D-=3D-=
Next time you hear from us, it'll be 1998. Enjoy the holidays. If you're
in Boston, join us for First Night. The New England Aquarium will have a
special 6:30 sea lion show for First Night buttonholders. And, WBZ-TV will
be broadcasting the countdown to 1998 live from our roof, which affords a
great view of the fireworks, and the last laser show of 1997.