Monday, August 25, 2008
Everyone on the zodiac was bursting with joy! We could not contain ourselves and we sported the largest grins ever seen on Homo sapiens! We were watching penguins!! Galapagos penguins, Spheniscus mendiculus!!
Seeing the cute penguins while visiting the Enchanted Islands in June was, well REALLY COOL! The opportunity to swim with penguins in their native habitat was one of the main reasons I wanted to go on the trip. That did not happen, but I was able to get very close to these adorable creatures who have the magic ability to make humans smile.
The penguins were very tolerant. They were not bothered by our zodiac as it eased closer and closer to the edge of their rocky home. Ahhh... click, click, click. Many memories were captured in photos.
Aren't I handsome?
This pair staked claim on a perfect cave-like home on Bartolome Island. I wonder who was inside?
Unfortunately, recent news about the health of this unique bird is frightening. The New York Times reported August 18 that a new parasite has infected the Galapagos penguin. Researchers are concerned that, "it could lead to avian malaria, a disease that contributed significantly to the 50 percent extinction rate of endemic birds in Hawaii." It is believed that the infection is the result of increased tourism. Ugh! This doesn't make me feel very good about being one of the tourists.
The good news is that the penguins are showing no signs of illness. Researchers are trying to determine which mosquito is responsible for transferring the parasite to the penguins. Steps are also being taken to protect the island from non-native spieces. When we were landing on Baltra, the flight attendant shocked us all as she fumigated the overhead bins and therefore, passengers as well, with an insecticide spray.
I would love to add a link to The New York Times to make the article easily accessible, but because I am having difficulty adding links to my blog, I am only able to provide the site address: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/08/19/science/19peng.html?_r=1&ref=science&oref=slogin