Penguins of the Falkland Islands and South America
Penguins of the Falkland Islands and South America
Perfect Bound Softcover
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Prepare to enter the hidden world of the penguin. Learn how penguins dominate the half world of land and sea. See penguins like you have never seen them before.

This extraordinary book is the authoritative work on penguins of South America, an area that includes the Falkland Islands, one of the world’s most important penguin breeding sites. Based on 8 years of research by Dr. Mike Bingham, the book includes detailed maps and population data for each breeding site.

The introduction gives an in depth look at the evolution, physiology, and life strategies of penguins, whilst individual chapters explain how each species has become adapted to fulfil its own particular niche. Finally the role of penguins in the environment is explained, with some remarkable implications for human kind.

If you want to know where to find a particular penguin, then maps of each species will show. If you want to know why penguins don’t fly, or why they are black and white, then this book will give you the answer. And as an added incentive, the proceeds from the book fund the author’s ongoing efforts to save penguins threatened by over-fishing and oil pollution in the Falkland Islands.

Prepare to be astonished, enthralled, and captivated by this beautifully written book.

Prior to hatching, the chicks call to their parents from inside the egg. The chicks use a small point on the tip of the bill, called the egg tooth, to break through the egg shell. Hatching can often be a prolonged process, lasting a couple of days.

When the chicks reach about two weeks of age, the original protoptile plumage, which is thin and readily transmits warmth from the parent bird, is replaced by a thicker mesoptile plumage. This provides good insulation, and in association with metabolic changes, it allows the chick to maintain its own body temperature. This allows both parents to go to sea in search of food, in order to meet the growing demand for food from the larger chicks. In most surface-nesting species, chicks whose parents are at sea form into creches, and this provides them with a certain degree of protection from cold weather and predators.

Returning adults identify their chicks by recognition of their distinctive calls. Chicks must beg for food in order to initiate a feeding response from the parent, and this is usually done by constant pecking around the parents bill. Penguins, unlike most other birds, do not have crops and regurgitate partially digested food directly from the stomach. Generally it is the adults who must be convinced that they are receiving feeding demands from their own chick, since hungry chicks will happily beg from any passing adult, or even other chicks.

Mortality amongst chicks is generally quite high, and varies from species to species according to different breeding strategies. Some species lay only one egg, or lay two eggs of different size, concentrating all their efforts into raising just one healthy chick. Such species are generally longer-lived, do not begin breeding until several years of age, and use a strategy of slow reproduction but lower adult mortality. Species adopting such a strategy often show lower annual fluctuations in breeding success and population size. Nevertheless, lower reproductive rates mean that they are slower to recover from population crashes or human exploitation.

Other species lay two equally sized eggs, and put equal effort into rearing both. This allows them to achieve very high reproductive rates during seasons of high food abundance, but they may also suffer from low reproductive rates when food is scarce. These species tend to be shorter lived, begin breeding at an early age, and use a strategy of rapid reproduction but variable adult mortality. Such species tend to show high annual fluctuations in both breeding success and population size. Because they can achieve high reproductive rates, they are perhaps more able to recover from natural disasters and direct exploitation, but would still be vulnerable to a long-term reduction in food abundance.

When chicks are ready to leave the nest site and take to the sea, they shed their mesoptile plumage and develop their adult waterproof plumage, allowing them to enter the water for the first time. The term "fledging" normally applies to the stage when young birds take their first flight from the nest, but in penguins the term refers to chicks changing into adult plumage. Some parental responsibility may still remain after fledging, but before long most adult penguins return to the sea in order to build up their body fat reserves in preparation for their annual moult.

These foraging trips usually last up to about four weeks, and allow the build up of thicker layers of sub-cuticular fat, which will provide better heat insulation during the forthcoming moult. This is particularly important, since adults are unable to feed during their 2 - 4 week moult period, and must sustain heat loss by burning up body fat. If insufficient body fat exists, adults may starve to death prior to completion of their moult. In practice this very rarely happens, but it has been observed following seasons of extreme food shortage, such as following the effects of El Niño Southern Oscillations (ENSO).

Healthy adult penguins have few natural predators on land, although on occasions Sea Lions have been known to come ashore to take adult penguins. At sea however, penguins are often killed by Leopard Seals, Sea Lions and Killer Whales. Skuas and gulls are regular predators of eggs and small chicks during the breeding season, but are unable to over-power healthy adults.

Penguins are the major avian top-predators in the southern oceans. The entire world population of all penguins consume around 20 - 25 million tons of fish, squid and crustaceans every year. By way of comparison, the world's commercial fisheries remove around 70 million tons per year. However, because penguins breed in very large numbers at particular sites, and generally forage within a range of 40km, there is considerable local competition for food. Breeding colonies therefore rely on highly productive feeding areas within their daily foraging range, in order to sustain chick production. Any significant reduction in food abundance within this foraging zone is likely to have adverse affects on chick-rearing ability.

Dr. Mike Bingham has worked for the United States Government, British Government, and Falkland Islands Government on a number of wildlife projects. Prior to 1993 Mike was working for the United States Government in Hawaii, helping to establish a research and banding program for marine turtles. In 1993 Mike moved to the Falkland Islands to take up the Government funded post of Conservation Officer. Since then he has been studying penguins, and monitoring the effects of human activity, such as fishing, oil exploration, farming, and tourism. His love of penguins and attention to detail has allowed him to explore the private life of penguins in a way that few others have achieved.

In 1995 Mike led an island-wide penguin census of the Falkland Islands which showed that populations had declined by over 80% since commercial fishing began. The Falkland Islands Government insisted that the declines were part of a global trend, so in 1996 Mike led a penguin census of the remainder of the world population, proving that populations were only declining in the Falklands.

When Mike refused to cover up his findings, he was kicked out as Conservation Officer. Since then he has set up the Environmental Research Unit, and continued his penguin research using independent funding.

In 1998 oil exploration began in the Falklands, and poor environmental protection led to three separate oil spills, killing hundreds of penguins and other seabirds. Mike protested about the lack of environmental safeguards, and the unnecessary damage being done to Falklands wildlife. The Falkland Islands Government decided that Dr. Bingham’s research posed a threat to future wealth from fishing and oil development, and began a campaign to remove him.

Firstly, Mike discovered firearms hidden under his bed, but fortunately was able to dispose of them prior to the Customs raid that followed. Then he was arrested on charges of deception, but released when the Police were forced to admit they had fabricated the evidence. Then the Falkland Islands Government tried to deport him, claiming that he had criminal convictions for burglary, which he didn’t. The government was eventually forced to admit that they had used convictions belonging to a totally different person, and that another "administrative error" had occurred.

When Mike was arrested a third time, he turned to Amnesty International, who put him in touch with Index on Censorship. They exposed the corruption within the Falkland Islands Government, and the story hit the British newspapers in October 1999. The Sunday Times, The Guardian, The Observer, The Daily Post, and Birdwatch magazine all published the story, with titles such as "Arrested, framed, threatened - Researcher fights a one-man war in the Falklands."

Despite their 4 year campaign of harassment, the Falkland Islands Government were forced to accept Mike’s findings regarding penguin declines, and annual fishing efforts have been reduced. Since then Gentoo and Rockhopper penguin populations have stopped declining, and now seem to have reached an equilibrium, albeit at a much lower level than before fishing began. Unfortunately Magellanic Penguins are still declining in the Falklands, and Dr. Bingham is now concentrating on identifying the cause, with support from the Chilean government. Sales from this book help fund this vital research.


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