Sphenisco’s Annual Meeting under the Motto “For Diversity, Against Monotony”

Saarbrücken, 13 July 2019.
JahrestreffenAs in the past, Sphenisco had its annual meeting on the last Saturday in June, this year on the 29th at 13:30 in the Landau Zoo School, and, as in years past, my focus was to be there as well. This time I was able to attend with my colleague Sandra Schick, from the Saarbrücken Zoological Education Department. Due to diverse construction sites and road closures, we did not get to the Landau Zoo until an hour after the meeting had already started.
Thus, we missed Nancy Duman’s Skype greetings and description of the current situation in northern Chile. Nancy is known to all the Sphenisco insiders as the highly committed on-site Sphenisco representative who, thanks to her networking, always knows the right person to contact. Unfortunately, with the new change of government, the situation with the planned large-scale projects has not changed for the better. As we arrived at around 14:30, Gabriele Knauf was just updating us on the current situation. Most interesting was that, in addition to active organizations such as Modema, the regional medical association joined the newly—established "Alianza Humboldt” (Humboldt Alliance).
Gabriele Knauf further reported about activities in Peru, where, through organizations like Acorema, campaigns were done in schools, by which, among other things, wall paintings (called “Murales” in South America) were created, that called attention to the current situation with the Humboldt Penguins. Following that, the Landau Zoo Director, Jens-Ove Heckel greeted all the participants and emphasized the enthusiasm that the members of Sphenisco show for the Humboldt Penguins. He promised to expand the support provided to Sphenisco by the Landau Zoo. Gabriele Knauf thanked him for that.
After a coffee break, Nicole Bertram described the process required to create her animated video, “Flaschenpost” (Message in a Bottle). Insights into the complex preparations showed how over 300 hours of work were needed for this five-minute film. Naturally, the finished product was presented to all members present. The film can be viewed by anyone via the Sphenisco website under https://vimeo.com/337390003 and is available for non-commercial purposes.
Another new achievement is the “Penguin Wine”, now available from the Ramsel family, with which not only protection for the Humboldt Penguin can be advertised, but also the proceeds of which result in 1€ to Sphenisco for each bottle of wine sold. Andrea Ramsel described how she came upon this project. Random encounters at the right locations and right times led to her, as a fine artist, to creating an oil painting of a Humboldt Penguin that is now the label for the “Sphenisco Wine”, a white burgundy from the family’s vineyard. Between May and June, 300 bottles of this very special wine had already been sold. As part of a present, the wine will be sent to a German Antarctic research station.
JahrestreffenNext, Zoo Director Sabrina Linn presented the new Humboldt Penguin exhibit at the Frankfurt Zoo. For reasons of energy conservation and due to climate change, the decision was made to change the previous sub-Antarctic penguin exhibit to one for Humboldt Penguins. The enclosure, which took two-and-a-half years to build and measures over 2,000 m², was opened on May 6th, 2019. For 7.5 million Euro, the 25 animals currently there now call it their home. The water tank has a depth of up to three meters and a volume of 435 m³. A particularity of the enclosure is that each of the breeding burrows is linked to the city’s sewer system. This makes the cleaning of the burrows much easier for the animal keepers. Each of the animals has a name marked on a clip on one of their wings. Another feature is that the aquatic area is shared with two sturgeon.
Dr. Christine Schubert, the Deputy Chairwoman of Sphenisco, compiled together the European activities since the last annual meeting in June, 2018. From Species Protection Day in Karlsruhe to the Nordrhein-Westfalen Partner Zoo Day, on to Global Penguin Day, which was recognized via activities in Dresden, Mannheim, Bochum, Karlsruhe, Landau and Saarbrücken, Christina also reported on Chile, where the “Marcha del Pinguino” (March of the Penguins) was carried out. Sphenisco was involved in each one of these activities (see also the article “World Penguin Day – Panorama 2019”, on this website). The presentation of the Penguin Wine at the Landau Zoo and the opening of the penguin enclosure in Frankfurt, as well as the Penguin Festival were further occurrences where Sphenisco showed what it stands for, just as it did on Species Protection Day in Landau, as the Penguin Wine was handed over for delivery to the Antarctic Research Station and students from Chile skyped with senior citizens in Landau.
Christina Schubert further reported that the Frankfurt Zoo and the Peak Wildlife Park (UK) are also now in the ranks of the zoo members of Sphenisco. In addition, five new private citizens were added to the membership list. Sphenisco’s membership thus now comprises 71 private citizens, 24 zoos and two institutions. My colleague Sandra Schick also filled out an application for membership during the annual meeting this year.
After another coffee break much deserved by all, the general assembly of the organization began. Besides the usual formalities that had to be attended to, the new projects were of particular interest:  an environmental education project is planned, for which Sphenisco intends to hire a teacher and/or artist; support of a new penguin enclosure at the Museum in San Antonio, Chile; support for the census of the actually-existing penguins in the Humboldt Archipelago, as well as support for the assessment of the planned marine protection area. A very special idea is the foundation of a Sphenisco Association in Chile, because with its creation, it will receive the status of being a domestic organization, giving it entirely new possibilities with respect to intervention than foreign organizations are entitled to. As one can tell, the ideas for further activities within Sphenisco don’t run out, and with respect to the current situation in Chile, these ideas are much needed. The financial cushion that Sphenisco can fall back on also helps.
JahrestreffenThis very informative gathering came comfortably to a close with a collective dinner at the “Goldener Engel” (Golden Angel) Restaurant in Edesheim, with of course further discussions in support of the Humboldt Penguin. A nice occurrence that doesn’t have anything to do with penguins, occurred on the margins of the evening:  the vineyard owners Mr. and Mrs. Ramsel, were able to accomplish the feat of making it clear to the very experienced waiter, that there was something wrong with the beer that was being served. All previously-brought beers were exchanged for new ones that then tasted good to all.
Via new detours, this time via Neustadt and Hochspeyer, my colleague and I arrived back in Saarland at midnight, safe and sound, where the next day a child’s birthday party was to be celebrated at the Saarbrücken Zoo.
Dr. Ralf Kohl, Saarbrücken
translated by Erich Greiner

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