Unhappy times for hit penguin in 'Happy Feet'

A A A

He's Lovelace the rockhopper, one of the stars of this winter's hit animated comedy about dancing penguins, Happy Feet. But in real life, he's in trouble.

Unmistakable in his wacky, yellow-feathered headdress - common to all rockhopper penguins - Lovelace, voiced in the movie by Robin Williams, looks the part as the alternative penguin guru of Adelie Land who answers any question for the price of a pebble.

But in the world at large, something catastrophic is happening to his kind, it was revealed yesterday. Populations of the rockhopper, Eudyptes chrysocome, have taken a massive tumble - possibly because of climate change - according to the latest survey figures from the Falkland Island environmental group, Falklands Conservation.

The organisation, a partner of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) within BirdLife International, says the latest survey of penguins in the Falkland Islands, for 2005-06, reveals a sharp decline since the beginning of the millennium as rockhopper penguin numbers have plunged from 298,496 pairs in the islands in 2000 to 210,418 pairs now - almost a 30 per cent decline in five years.

However, figures from 1932 suggest the population of rockhopper penguins then measured around one-and-a-half million pairs - which would mean today's figures represent a decline of around 85 per cent.

"The decline of the rockhopper penguin in the Falkland Islands suggests a massive shift in the ecology of the Southern Ocean, possibly linked to climate change," said Dr Geoff Hilton, an RSPB biologist. "It is really alarming that these huge declines - involving the disappearance of literally millions of birds - are happening on islands all round the Southern Ocean, and yet we don't really know what is going wrong."

In the 2002-03 breeding season, the waters around the Falkland Islands were affected by a harmful algal bloom which poisoned many penguins. Surveys have shown that some species, including the gentoo penguin, have been able to recover from the worst effects of this event, but that the populations of rockhopper penguins are still struggling.

Nic Huin, of Falklands Conservation, said: "Although the factors driving the long-term decline of rockhopper penguins are a little elusive, these survey results show that this species seems unable to bounce back in good years from the population crashes that happen in bad years. This is gravely worrying for the future of this little bird, which has its most important world population in the Falkland Islands."

The Falklands, one of the UK's 14 overseas territories, are home to four nesting species of penguin besides the rockhopper, also hosting the macaroni penguin, the gentoo penguin, the king penguin and the Magellanic penguin.

The rockhopper is one of the world's 17 penguin species. Listed as "vulnerable" by the World Conservation Union, it is one of 10 species facing global extinction.

In the movie, Lovelace the rockhopper guru dispenses advice to Mumble, the emperor penguin kicked out his colony for being able to dance, but not sing.

You heard. That's a Hollywood script for you. Don't ask any more, just go and see it.

News
Patrick Stewart in the classiest ice bucket to date
people
News
Australian rapper Iggy Azalea was left red faced but, thankfully, unhurt after taking a few too many steps backwards, sending her tumbling off the stage.
peopleIggy Azalea was left red faced but apparently unhurt after taking a few too many steps backwards
News
newsComedian Lee Hurst started trend with first tweet using the hashtag
News
The current recommendation from Britain's Chief Medical Officer, is that people refrain from drinking on at least two days a week
food + drinkTheory is that hangovers are caused by methanol poisoning
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
A nearly completed RoboThespian robot inside the Engineered Arts workshop is tested in Penryn, England. The Cornish company, operating from an industrial unit near Falmouth, is the world's only maker of commercially available life sized humanoid robots
techSuper-intelligent robots could decide destroying the human race is the kindest thing to do
News
scienceExcitement from alien hunters at 'evidence' of extraterrestrial life
News
newsRyan Crighton goes in search of the capo dei capi
Life and Style
techConcept would see planes coated in layer of micro-sensors and able to sense wear and tear
Life and Style
Customers can get their caffeine fix on the move
food + drink
Extras
indybest

Arts and Entertainment
Actors front row from left, Jared Leto, Jennifer Lawrence, Meryl Streep, Ellen DeGeneres, Bradley Cooper, Peter Nyongío Jr., and, second row, from left, Channing Tatum, Julia Roberts, Kevin Spacey, Brad Pitt, Lupita Nyongío and Angelina Jolie as they pose for a
film
Sport
sport
Life and Style
techCould new invention save millions in healthcare bills?
Sport
David Moyes gets soaked
sport Moyes becomes latest manager to take part in the ALS challenge
Voices
A meteor streaks across the sky during the Perseid Meteor Shower at a wind farm near Bogdanci, south of Skopje, Macedonia, in the early hours of 13 August
voicesHagel and Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise, says Robert Fisk
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Software Developer (Java /C# Programmer)- London

£30000 - £45000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A global investment management fi...

Senior Network Engineer-(CCIE, CCNP, Cisco, London)

£65000 - £75000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Senior Network Engineer-(CCIE, CC...

Senior Network Analyst - (CCIE, Cisco, CISSP)

£70000 - £80000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Senior Network Analyst - (CCIE, C...

Senior Network Engineer-(Design, Implementation, CCIE)

£60000 - £80000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Senior Network Engineer-(Design, ...

Day In a Page

All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

Robert Fisk: All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

Chuck Hagel and Martin Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise
Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

So claims an EU report which points to the Italian Mob’s alleged grip on everything from public works to property
Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

Once the poor relation, the awards show now has the top stars and boasts the best drama
What happens to African migrants once they land in Italy during the summer?

What happens to migrants once they land in Italy?

Memphis Barker follows their trail through southern Europe
French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

The ugly causeway is being dismantled, an elegant connection erected in its place. So everyone’s happy, right?
Frank Mugisha: Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked

Frank Mugisha: 'Coming out was a gradual process '

Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked
Radio 1 to hire 'YouTube-famous' vloggers to broadcast online

Radio 1’s new top ten

The ‘vloggers’ signed up to find twentysomething audience
David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

A blistering attack on US influence on British television has lifted the savvy head of Channel 4 out of the shadows
Florence Knight's perfect picnic: Make the most of summer's last Bank Holiday weekend

Florence Knight's perfect picnic

Polpetto's head chef shares her favourite recipes from Iced Earl Grey tea to baked peaches, mascarpone & brown sugar meringues...
Horst P Horst: The fashion photography genius who inspired Madonna comes to the V&A

Horst P Horst comes to the V&A

The London's museum has delved into its archives to stage a far-reaching retrospective celebrating the photographer's six decades of creativity
Mark Hix recipes: Try our chef's summery soups for a real seasonal refresher

Mark Hix's summery soups

Soup isn’t just about comforting broths and steaming hot bowls...
Tim Sherwood column: 'It started as a three-horse race but turned into the Grand National'

Tim Sherwood column

I would have taken the Crystal Palace job if I’d been offered it soon after my interview... but the whole process dragged on so I had to pull out
Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

Eden Hazard admits he is still below the level of Ronaldo and Messi but, after a breakthrough season, is ready to thrill Chelsea’s fans
Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

The Everton and US goalkeeper was such a star at the World Cup that the President phoned to congratulate him... not that he knows what the fuss is all about
Match of the Day at 50: Show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition

Tom Peck on Match of the Day at 50

The show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition