Penguins breaking the ice at Biblical Zoo

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Penguins breaking the ice at Biblical Zoo

Post by judih » June 14th, 2005, 10:18 am

Penguins breaking the ice at Biblical Zoo

Image Love Birds: Courting penguins at the biblical zoo (Tomer Applebaum)

By Jonathan Lis

Bobby, a two-and-a-half-year-old female penguin, has a new boyfriend. Over the last 18 months the keepers at The Tisch Family Zoological Gardens in Jerusalem (the Biblical Zoo) noticed that one of the male penguins, number 513, was courting her and trying to impress her. A few months ago, it appears she was finally wooed and the couple now is "going out."

"We saw it coming," said Judith Philipsborn, who is in charge of the bird division at the zoo, this week. "At first he swam around her and walked behind her in the enclosure. We think Bobby's younger sister also has an older suitor, but it is not clear if she is interested."

However, Bobby's mating and her sister's potential couplehood are a rare occurence at the zoo. Five years ago, a flock of 16 South African penguins, also called "donkey penguins" because of the braying sound they make, were brought to the zoo. Since their arrival most of the flock has not found a partner and the local penguins do not reproduce sufficiently. Except for Bobby and her boyfriend, there are only two other couples. One is Bobby's parents, who are already old, Philipsborn says.

The zoo decided to import a young group of penguins to increase the supply of single males. A suitable group was discovered in Holland, and two weeks ago three male and two female penguins joined the enclosure.

The exciting developments between the veteran penguins and the newcomers began only after a long period of adjustment. The five new members were first quarantined, closely observed and weighed to see that they were eating properly. After a month they were brought into the enclosure.

The penguins were in the enclosure for three days. "We could see them salivating at the sight of the pool," Philipsborn says. When the fence was removed, the new penguins dashed to the water, and the others all rushed in after them. "It was very moving," says Philipsborn. "For a few days there were some conflicts over food and burrows but everything settled down soon enough."

The Biblical Zoo's penguin enclosure is one of its most popular attractions. The glass wall of the enclosure also forms one side of their water hole, so visitors can view the penguins swimming under water. "Many visitors are surprised that penguins can survive in Israel's heat. We explain that 17 species of penguins exist in nature, and only two of them live on icy terrain. These penguins come from South Africa, where they are an endangered species," Philipsborn said.

The zoo staff still do not know if their plan will succeed, or, if new couples will form, who will decide to breed, but Philipsborn is optimistic. "Several years may go by before we know," she said, "but I hope that at least 10 couples will emerge, not only three as we have now."

Penguins, like swans and vultures are monogamous animals who share their entire life with the same partner.

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Post by Artguy » July 2nd, 2005, 10:30 am

Sex in a tux..... :wink:

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