Working for birds in Africa

The Adventures of Peter the Penguin

Fri, 12/21/2012 - 15:28 -- abc_admin
Phil Whittington, illustrated by Fred Mouton. 2001. The Avian Demography Unit, University of Cape Town, and available from there at R49.95 plus postage and packing. Orders can be placed at: bkorder.htm
p 79

Anyone interested in African birding issues will have heard of the Treasure oil spill in June 2000, which caused the oiling of 19,000 African Penguins Spheniscus demersus. This resulted in an incredible effort to not only prevent the oiling of further birds, by transporting and subsequently releasing almost 20,000 birds at Port Elizabeth several thousand km away, but also a massive clean-up operation of those already oiled. Three of the translocated birds, named Peter, Percy and Pamela, were satellite tagged and their journey back to the Cape was avidly followed by the world press who turned them into international celebrities.

Phil Whittington, a PhD student from the Avian Demography Unit at the University of Cape Town, has written a fantastic book of the incident through the eyes of Peter, one of the tagged penguins. The story starts from the egg and covers all of the principal parts of a penguin's life cycle, from coping with being abandoned by the parents as a chick to finding a mate! The main part of the story deals with the oil spill and its consequences. Though aimed at the younger reader, the book is hugely enjoyable for an adult audience and is a mine of information concerning penguin biology. Closing the book is a section, entitled 'The Serious Bit', which details the Treasure disaster in photos and words, and discusses the wider issue of marine pollution - SANCCOB (the Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds) receives a donation for each book sold. It is an easy read and the cartoon illustrations by Fred Mouton, of Die Burger, one of Cape Town's morning newspapers, are hugely enjoyable. Definitely recommended for the bookshelves of any age group.

Phil Atkinson

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