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We went to Hermanus with very few concrete plans. See a friend there, stay in a B&B there, and that was about it. I was skeptical that it was going to be a huge success, but obviously, as usual with these things, I was wrong. We had a great couple of days; busy, but fun. Some good family time. Beach visits, a market which had beer on sale, some flamingo stalking, a spot (or two) of fun with the Mavic, a walk in the nature reserve, some decent food (some not so decent food) and then an impromptu stop at Betty’s Bay on the way home.

… where the penguins and dassies and cormorants were all only too pleased to pose for the camera, and where the foreign tourists (German and Spanish) refused to spend R20 (£1.16, €1.31, $1.49) to see the all the chicks, because there were two just before the hut where you had to cough up your admission fee. The admission fee that goes towards looking after the penguins and preserving their future.

Sometimes foreign tourists can be tight bastards. All they seemed to want to do was stand around near their tour bus and smoke cigarettes (and guess where the fag butts went, fewer than 24 hours on from this?).
Most of the tourists we see in the Cape are having a great time and are amazed by what they see. These ones, not so much.

Anyway, photos here. Not of the foreign tourists, obviously. Ugh.

Dead penguins

I have not one, not even two, but THREE dead penguin stories for you today.
Now there’s something that other blogs never give you. (I would imagine, anyway.)

First off: Penguins killed by Penguin Malaria.

Yes, sad news, but avian malaria – causal agent Plasmodium relictum, and spread  by mosquitoes like other malarias – is actually fairly common around the world, even in the UK. Ironically, the only place that birds are safe from avian malaria is Antarctica, famous as being the big cold bit down at the bottom of the world, and frequented by… er… penguins. At the last count, Longleat had lost 25 of its 34 Humboldt penguins (Spheniscus humboldti). Let’s hope their efforts to save the remaining 9 are successful.

Secondly: Penguins killed by Caracal (Caracal caracal).

Yes, sad news, but… hang on… haven’t we done this one before?

Well, yes, we have. Here:

A spate of penguin fatalities has occurred in Simon’s Town over the past two weeks. The City has identified the predator by installing trap cameras in the area. The images confirmed the presence of a large caracal.

But that was in July, and that caracal was captured and relocated (we told you about that bit, too).

But Disa (for it was she what was eating all of the penguins) was radio-collared before her relocation, and this time around, it’s not her. Because when one caracal is moved, another will happily take its territory. Especially when that territory features large numbers of lovely plump penguins.

The City of Cape Town urges residents and tourists to support and assist efforts to capture a caracal which is currently preying on endangered African penguins in the Links Crescent and Froggy Pond areas of Simon’s Town.

Disa was quickly captured and successfully relocated, but as we now see, that did little to help the penguins. Assuming that the authorities can work their magic with this new caracal equally quickly – and that things follow the same pattern – I’m hopeful that we can report on more penguin predation before Christmas.

And then there was: Penguin killed by Beagle.

Yes, sad news, but etc etc. This photo was sent from home this morning:

dead-penguin

Happy Feet, it ain’t.

The beagle was found upstairs (the beagle is not allowed upstairs), chewing this penguin chick from our daughter’s bed (the beagle is not allowed to chew the kids’ toys). Essentially, that white cloudy stuff you can see there is spilled penguin brains, and I now have the difficult task of performing some sort of surgery on this juvenile Emperor Penguin (Aptenodytes forsteri) before my juvenile daughter (Homo sapiens) sees it.

Any retribution on the beagle – while satisfying – would sadly be logically pointless as dogs (Canis lupus familiaris) are pretty stupid and can’t associate punishment with the actual crime unless they are actually caught in the act.

Either that or they’ve just made us humans think that’s how things work, in which case, they’re actually pretty clever. And devious. And destructive. And oh, why, oh why did we have to get a beagle?

Of Penguins and Landmines

This comes from the QI website, so I’m fairly convinced of its veracity.

There are thousands of landmines in the Falkland Islands, laid in the 1980s by the Argentinians, which have been a boon to the Islands’ penguin populations, who are too light to set them off (sadly, more modern landmines can be set off by the change in temperature caused by a shadow falling on them, so any penguins in Afghanistan wouldn’t get away with it). The consequent lack of humans in the Falklands means that their populations have rebounded after the decline caused by whaling ventures.

When they did stay on the Falklands, whalers needed fire to turn the whales’ blubber into whale oil. As there aren’t many trees there, whalers would simply burn the penguins, which have highly flammable fat beneath their skin.

Now we know. And now we’re off to Boulders Beach to see if you can actually use a penguin as a firelighter.

Penguin facts, eh? You can never have too many of them.

I was watching an old episode of QI last night and it struck me that I should probably watch a whole lot more episodes of it. While the comedy doesn’t always work, the facts are… well… Quite Interesting.

Satellite Tracking Penguins

We’ve done it with sharks in the Isle of Man, so why not have some fun tracking some penguins a bit more locally?

Dramatically billed (beaked?) as:

FIVE PENGUINS. SEVEN DAYS. ONE RACE AGAINST TIME.

it’s a publicity thing to highlight the plight of the African Penguin:

Since the turn of the 20th century we have lost 99% of the entire African Penguin population.

From 7 to 13 October we celebrate the perilous journey undertaken by five African Penguins.
Fitted with satellite tracking devices, we will follow the birds as they take to the high seas in a race to bulk up ahead of their fast approaching moulting season, where they will lose over half of their body weight.

The catch? The fish they depend on are becoming increasingly scarce. This means they must swim extreme distances to feed, all the while avoiding the impolite intentions of the Cape fur seal and unfair competition with fishing vessels. By determining how far the birds must forage to find food, these areas can be protected and so restore balance to the ecosystem as a whole.

One day in, and Siren “The Explorer” has gone furthest with 196.25km. Hank “The Underbird” is living up to his reputation, having covered “just” 122.55km.

It’s fun, it’s educational, it’s kinda quirky. Go see and share it on twitter: #ThePenguinRun

And now: PENGUINS OF DOOM

After the PILCHARDS OF DOOM in Paarl story which broke earlier today and the hippo house invasions in Nigeria last week, now it’s a story of penguins in Betty’s Bay.

A colony of endangered African penguins has ruffled the feathers of an elderly Betty’s Bay resident, whose house is slowly being taken over by the critters.

Aww. Penguins! Cute! (Everyone loves penguins.)

79-year old Barbara Wallers has lived in her Stony Point home since 1947, adjacent to the oldest land-based colony of African penguins in South Africa, with around 5 000 birds.

Aww. Sweet old lady!
Got that mental image of your lovely grandma, all grey haired, cardigan clad with her tea and biscuits?
You have? Great. So what does Grandma think of the penguins?

“They shit all over the place. The other day I had one in here, running around, and it shit all over my bedroom. It just walked through the door and made a mess of my house,” Barbara Wallers told the Cape Argus.

I would have given anything – anything – to have been there when the reporter recorded that outburst. Brilliant.

The 79-year-old said the penguins waddled across her back garden, set up nests and kept her up the whole night with their squawking. According to the report, the birds snuck through gaps in incomplete fencing and into enticing gardens.

So what methods is sweet Barbara using to get rid of the penguins? Well, obviously, she’s spraying them with fertiliser.

No, I don’t understand this response either.

Is her hope to somehow encourage them to grow uncontrollably so that they can no longer fit through the gaps in the fencing? Or is she just anxious to somehow contravene the National Environmental Management Biodiversity Act (No.10 of 2004) by applying a toxic substance to an endangered species. If that’s the case, rather feed them aging pilchards, Barbara. Those, as we discovered earlier, can be deadly.

Or maybe there’s a more scientific reason. Does the fertiliser make their shit easier to clean off bedroom carpets. Is that it, Barbara? I realise that penguin shit can be difficult to handle. I mentioned this paper here back in April 2007.

Either way, Barbara has 3 months of penguin invasion still to endure:

The Overstrand municipality promised it would complete the fencing by January.

They might be facing some very big penguins and a very angry Granny by then…