Jun 27, 2006

A JACKASS BY ANY OTHER NAME
SIMONS TOWN, South Africa –  Penguins infest the southern tip of the Cape Peninsula. The bossy birds colonized a posh suburban beach in 1983 and soon enraged neighbors with their stench. Not to mention the donkey-like bray that gave rise to their common name: Jackass Penguins.

Ornithologists recently tried to bowdlerize the common name to "South African Penguin". But that's no fun to say. Jackasses they are and jackasses they shall remain.

Wee waddling jackasses the size of candlestick bowling pins, in fact. And horribly, horribly self-important.

The National Park now manages Boulders Beach, home to nearly 3,000 penguins, who feed on pilchards and anchovies. They nest among the scrub and sand-dunes, oblivious to tourists mere feet away on the grey-bleached boardwalks.

Bill, one of my companions, best sums up the sublime sight: "You just don't expect to see penguins with palm trees. You expect to see penguins and freeze your ass off."

2 comments:

  1. There's actually a breeding colony of African penguins not two blocks away from my offices in San Fran. They're at the California Sciences Academy aquarium. Cute little things... they waddle right up to the glass when it's feeding time. But yeah, they do like to bray, too.

    They're also endangered. Used to nest on islands covered with thousands of years worth of guano. They could really burrow into the stuff. Then civilization came and mined all the guano for fertilizer. We used to call that progress.

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  2. Hmmm. Sometimes I suspect my job's just a load of guano-mining really...

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