• Diana Littlejohns

World Penguin Day

To celebrate World Penguin Day today, 25th April 2019, in our workshop this morning the children and I went on an imaginary trip to the Galapagos islands to learn about the only type of penguin that lives naturally in the northern hemisphere, the Galapagos Penguin (https://study.com/academy/lesson/why-are-penguins-endangered-lesson-for-kids.html). These cold-loving black and white birds living by the Equator have had to adapt to the Galapagos’ heat over the four million years that they’ve inhabited it; they pant to keep cool, have shorter hair and tend to stay on the islands that have chillier water i.e. 95% live on Isabela and Fernandina (https://www.natgeokids.com/uk/discover/geography/countries/ng-kids-heads-to-the-galapagos-islands/).


With less than two thousand Galapagos penguins left in the world it’s good to talk about them, especially today, with children whom normally think of Emperor penguins when penguins are mentioned.


When I explained that we would be learning about animals that live on these stunning islands - the Giant Galapagos tortoise included - one little boy ran over to grab his penguin teddy bear which he’d brought in that morning to share with his friends. Excellent timing the teachers and I thought. I asked the children why Galapagos penguins are endangered and another little boy began telling me that, ‘It’s because the ice is cracking and falling into the water so the penguins have nowhere to live, and when the ice falls on their heads it kills them.’ I congratulated the child and went on to chat more about climate change and its’ effects all over the world, not just in the north and south poles. Getting caught in industrial fishing nets by mistake - known as bycatch - is also having a huge effect on the Galapagos penguin population (https://study.com/academy/lesson/why-are-penguins-endangered-lesson-for-kids.html).


There are ten types of giant tortoises left in the Galapagos, down from fifteen when Darwin arrived in 1835 (https://www.nationalgeographic.com/animals/reptiles/g/galapagos-tortoise/). Weighing as much as 250kgs - more than the weight of three Daddy’s combined; a fact that the children marvelled at, the reptilian, giant Galapagos tortoise is so chilled and awesome that little ones were keen to know more about their characteristics and behaviours, but also understood that they need more consideration as they’re also endangered. However, many of the tortoise species are strictly protected by the Ecuadorian government and have been since the 1970’s, so this along with captive breeding efforts by the Charles Darwin Research Station are having positive effects, so things are looking up for our colossal friends (https://www.nationalgeographic.com/animals/reptiles/g/galapagos-tortoise/). The Plastic Pollution Free Galapagos programme will help native penguins too (https://galapagosconservation.org.uk/projects/plasticpollutionfreegalapagos/).


I was amazed at how much information the little ones have retained from past conservation art workshops and you can see for yourself that their creations are beautiful, so this was a wonderful way to start Summer term. Thank you for having me Nursery.


If you'd like to know more about how penguins are faring today, please visit https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-48041487