The National Aviary in Pittsburgh brought the African penguins in from their outdoor exhibit because the weather is too cold.
Normally, that would make me laugh.
But I looked up where African penguins live. They’re from around the part of Africa closest to Antarctica. The weather gets as bad—or even worse—than Pittsburgh.
In the wild, the penguins would ride out that cold. A few, mostly the weak and sick, might die. As Steve Irwin used to say, “That’s nature’s way.”
But at the beginning of the 19th century, nature had about 4 million African penguins. Since then, the numbers have been plunging. There are only 55,000 African penguins left in the wild. At the rate it’s going, there won’t be any African penguins living free in 15 years.
The National Aviary wants to take special care of their African penguins, not only because they want to do their best for the animals, but because zoos are the last realistic hope for their species.
Careful records are kept on the family history of the penguins. They do this to maximize the genetic diversity of the species. Some of the birds are over-represented in the world captive population and aren’t permitted to breed. They are traded between zoos to ensure genetic diversity.
And they’re brought in when it’s too cold.
Because of habitat loss and pollution and even global warming, it’s unlikely that the African penguins will ever be reintroduced if they go extinct in the wild. Reclaiming habitat from industry and beach houses and toxic spills is rare. There’s only so much money for reintroduction, and there are species that might be better to spend that limited money on.
The only examples of these beautiful African penguins will be in zoos. And we’ll bring them inside when it gets too cold, because we don’t dare lose one of these remaining few.
Convergent evolution occurs when two unrelated species evolve similar results. The most famous example of convergent evolution is the eye...