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
Clare Balding
peopleClare Balding on how women's football is shaking up sport
Arts and Entertainment
Carrie Hope Fletcher
booksFirst video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Arts and Entertainment
Damien Hirst
artCoalition's anti-culture policy and cuts in local authority spending to blame, says academic
Sport
premier leagueMatch report: Arsenal 1 Man United 2
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
A comedy show alumni who has gone on to be a big star, Jon Stewart
tvRival television sketch shows vie for influential alumni
Arts and Entertainment
Kirk Cameron is begging his Facebook fans to give him positive reviews
film
Life and Style
Small winemakers say the restriction makes it hard to sell overseas
food + drink
News
i100
Life and Style
fashionThe Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
Voices
Neil Findlay
voicesThe vilification of the potential Scottish Labour leader Neil Findlay shows how one-note politics is today, says DJ Taylor
Life and Style
food + drinkMeat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Jason goes on a special mission for the queen
tvReview: Everyone loves a CGI Cyclops and the BBC's Saturday night charmer is getting epic
Life and Style
Tenderstem broccoli omelette with ricotta and pine nuts
food + drink
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Reach Volunteering: Financial Trustee and Company Secretary

Voluntary Only - Expenses Reimbursed: Reach Volunteering: A trustee (company d...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Project Manager

£45000 - £65000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Shopfitter

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join a successful an...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Sales Account Manager

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Digital Sales Account Manager...

Day In a Page

Mau Mau uprising: Kenyans still waiting for justice join class action over Britain's role in the emergency

Kenyans still waiting for justice over Mau Mau uprising

Thousands join class action over Britain's role in the emergency
Isis in Iraq: The trauma of the last six months has overwhelmed the remaining Christians in the country

The last Christians in Iraq

After 2,000 years, a community will try anything – including pretending to convert to Islam – to avoid losing everything, says Patrick Cockburn
Black Friday: Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Britain braced for Black Friday
Bill Cosby's persona goes from America's dad to date-rape drugs

From America's dad to date-rape drugs

Stories of Bill Cosby's alleged sexual assaults may have circulated widely in Hollywood, but they came as a shock to fans, says Rupert Cornwell
Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

As fans flock to see England women's Wembley debut against Germany, the TV presenter on an exciting 'sea change'
Oh come, all ye multi-faithful: The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?

Oh come, all ye multi-faithful

The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
Dr Charles Heatley: The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

Dr Charles Heatley on joining the NHS volunteers' team bound for Sierra Leone
Flogging vlogging: First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books

Flogging vlogging

First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show: US channels wage comedy star wars

Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show

US channels wage comedy star wars
When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine? When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible

When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine?

When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible
Look what's mushrooming now! Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector

Look what's mushrooming now!

Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector
Neil Findlay is more a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

More a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

The vilification of the potential Scottish Labour leader Neil Findlay shows how one-note politics is today, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Tenderstem broccoli omelette; Fried eggs with Mexican-style tomato and chilli sauce; Pan-fried cavolo nero with soft-boiled egg

Oeuf quake

Bill Granger's cracking egg recipes
Terry Venables: Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back

Terry Venables column

Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back
Michael Calvin: Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

Those at the top are allowing the same issues to go unchallenged, says Michael Calvin