World Penguin Day – Panorama 2019

Hannover 11. May 2019.

On April 25th I said to my colleagues, “Today is World Penguin Day.” One of my colleagues started to laugh and said, “Well, I’ll be darned!” Another colleague then said, “Then let us celebrate, as long as there still are some penguins!” That took my breath away. In order for us – and naturally also our children and grandchildren – to be able to share the planet with such cute companions, we definitely have to do something.

The fact that World Penguin Day is celebrated specifically on April 25th is no coincidence. That is the first day of winter in the southern hemisphere, on which the sun no longer shines over the horizon and the dark time of the year in the Antarctic begins. Scientists from the American McMurdo Research Station have observed that the Adélie penguins meet at exactly the same place every year on April 25th, in order to collectively swim to the north and spend the next months in the ocean. Thus was this day established and is now celebrated globally as World Penguin Day. That’s fascinating, isn’t it?

Unfortunately, there isn’t just reason to celebrate. Many of the 18 penguin species are threatened with extinction, and many of them are severely threatened. Among the most threatened species are the Galapagos Penguin, the one that lives the farthest north, near the equator. The New Zealand Yellow-Eyed Penguin is not doing much better, and then comes unfortunately the Humboldt Penguin, which, without Chilean and Peruvian environmental protectionists, and without Sphenisco, might already be extinct. We do not know. What we do know however, is that the current situation for the Humboldt Penguin is very serious. Therefore, in this year as well there have been many events around April 25th, in which attention was brought to the threat to these sympathetic tuxedo wearers.

Dresden21. / 22. April
The Dresden Zoo organized two activity booths, one on climatic change and one on the pollution of the oceans. The contamination of the oceans destroys the habitats and food sources not only for the penguins. The zoo’s employees set up two wading pools, one with colorful fish and one with plastic garbage. The task for the children was to use a net to clean the one pool, so that the water for penguins and other marine inhabitants would again be clean. Thus it was shown why it is important to reduce garbage as much as possible, and not to simply throw things away. Angelika Hoffmann, a member of Sphenisco, not only reported on the organization’s work, but also helped directly at the activity booths. In addition to information and imaginative education, 850 Euro in donations were collected. Wow, thank you very much, dear citizens of Dresden!

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Bochum 21. - 28. April
At the Zoological Garden in Bochum, an entire week was dedicated to penguins. The Zoological Garden is a member of Sphenisco and thus naturally made protection of the Humboldt Penguin one of its main points during that week. Daily, there were new handcrafting ideas offered for children. Many of the works of art created will be exposed at the zoological garden until next year’s World Penguin Day. At different participation stands like ʺMemoryʺ or ʺRallyʺ, the children were able to learn about the penguins’ lifestyle, but also learned about threats to them. What informed children can achieve, we can currently see at the Fridays for Future demonstrations. On Sunday, the Penguin Week had its crowning conclusion with the charity performance of the Ardey Gospel Chorus, the proceeds of which went to Sphenisco. Marc Fälker was the guiding spirit behind this initiative, is a member of the chorus, but also a fan of penguins and a member of Sphenisco. They trembled for some time before the event, due to the weather forecast. Saint Peter was gracious however, and it did not let it rain.

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Karlsruhe 25. April
The activity at the Karlsruhe Zoo was truly spectacular. For the 50th celebration of the Humboldt School in Karlsruhe, students, along with their art teacher, created 900 Humboldt penguins from clay. This clay colony stands directly next to the living Humboldt penguins at the zoo. “These works of art show the individuality of each and every student, who with his or her own ability, enriches the school community.”, enthusiastically explained School Director Ulrich Hecking, and further stated, “At the same time, we are able to point out the threat to these animals in their natural surroundings.”

In addition, there were special actions at the Karlsruhe Zoo, among others with students of the Humboldt School and with Sphenisco. Along with four previous students of her school, and their siblings, Nicole Bertram (Sphenisco) set up an information and participation stand. This was possible because four families in Oberkirch (in the Black Forest) got on a train and helped at the zoo for a half a day. Terrific! Thanks to this support, games like a garbage fishing game – truly an attraction – and a quiz were offered. The quiz was also well received. Many children – often together with their parents – kept themselves busy with this for quite some time!

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La Serena, Chile 26. April
In La Serena, many people took to the streets for the Humboldt penguin. Some of them clothed themselves as penguins, wore penguin masks and held placards in their hands. The demonstrators built a human chain and informed the citizens via megaphone. The main breeding area of the Humboldt penguin lies, after all, only 80 kilometers from La Serena. The threatened destruction of the breeding areas would hit both penguins and residents alike.

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Landau 1. May
At the Landau Zoo, so to speak Sphenisco’s “Home Zoo”, Penguin Day was celebrated on May 1st and offered a special highlight. The zoo, the zoo school (a cooperative between the University of Koblenz-Landau and the Landau Zoo), the Freundeskreis (Circle of Friends of the Landau Zoo), and naturally Sphenisco, organized a great program under the motto, “Turn Zoo Visitors into Species Protectionists”: the Board of Directors from Sphenisco informed the public about the work that the organization was performing. At the information stand from the zoo school, young and old could learn about the special characteristics of penguins. At the information stand, the question was also addressed as to what one could do in their daily life to ensure the survival of these animals in their natural habitat. There were plenty of answers to that.

The Freundeskreis has traditionally supported activity days culinarily – with coffee, cake, cold drinks and ice cream. In addition, there was also a prize wheel, which also hardly stood still. Buttons with pictures of animals were made, and the children’s face painting area was quite active. A highlight for all zoo visitors was the small, one-week old penguin chick, that animal keeper Jan Müller showed the visitors, shortly after finishing the penguin feeding. Just look, don’t touch. Because the chick’s parents normally are solely looked after by their parents, visitors usually don’t get to see such young penguins.

In the public relations work, Sphenisco surprised with a novelty. The Ramsel Vineyard, from Kirrweiler in the Pfalz, began the sale of a special edition wine called “Art Sphenisco” and will contribute one Euro for the protection of the Humboldt penguin for each bottle sold. The white burgundy from the 2018 vintage has a label that shows a Humboldt penguin in the Atacama Desert. The template for this label was an oil painting created by the artist, Andrea Ramsel. The “penguin wine” was tasted for the first time at this year’s Penguin Activity Day, and was well received by the Visitors.

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Saarbrücken 5. May
Here there were also participation activities penguin pool, which showed that penguins are special birds. Young artists were able to win prizes in a painting competition.

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Frankfurt 6. and11. May
At the Frankfurt Zoo, there was a big show. The newly-built penguin enclosure was opened on May 6th..  Frankfurt’s Head Mayor Peter Feldmann, the Cultural and Scientific Department Head Dr. Ina Hartwig, and Building Department Head Jan Schneider, together with the Zoo Director Dr. Miguel Casares, handed over the enclosure to the visitors. Luis Escalante Schuler, General Consul of the Republic of Peru, welcomed the Humboldt penguins whose habitat is situated in Chile and Peru, as diplomats of biodiversity and as ambassadors of the threat to their species. Sphenisco was also here with an information booth.en Humboldt-Pinguine als Botschafter des Artenreichtums und als Botschafter ihrer Bedrohung willkommen. Auch hier war Sphenisco mit einem Informationsstand vertreten.

On Saturday May 11th there was a large penguin festival with information booths [among others, with “Klimamobil” (a vehicle, with which the Frankfurt Zoo regularly informs citizens about environmental issues), “Umweltamt zum Plastikmüll” (the city of Frankfurt’s environmental office, which had a booth about plastic garbage) , as well as Sphenisco informed  to the environmental threats to the Humboldt Penguin], handcrafting booths, tours and feedings were set up around the new enclosure. Glitter tattoos for children, t-shirt stands where favorite animals were able to be designed, and the “Herrlich Hessisch” puppet show were the attractions of the day. The “Pikante Theater” presented a “Penguin Walk Act”, where a penguin family waddled through the zoo, rested, and showed the public their rituals, and even communicated with the public!

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Similar activities took place at the Allwetter Zoo in Münster (April 6th), the Halle Mountain Zoo (activity stands from the 23rd to the 30th of April); at the Luisenpark in Mannheim (April 24th), at the Dortmund Zoo (also April 28th), as well as the Zoo in Neuwied (April 25th). We are sure that further institutions and zoos snatched the opportunity to point out the difficult living situation of these clever sea birds.

The 2019 Penguin Days offered much information, fun and enjoyment. The popularity of these tuxedo wearers was hopefully elevated and hopefully as well the support for their salvation and that of many other species. Knowledge is power, every change of one’s own behavior for the good of nature and the environment – and even if it is so small – helps to improve the situation. Let’s do it!

Birgit Roth & Werner Knauf

translated by Erich Greiner


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