550 dead washed up in Sao Paulo.

[Brazil, Rio de Janeiro. ]

That’s a scary headline. Then you realise it happened about this time last year, and the year before that. Before that, the number of penguins (in addition to other marine creatures like turtles)  showing up is usually around 100. And alive.

We were talking about Magellanic penguins, and wondering how they’d mass-landed on the shore of Brazil from Antarctica:

‘They’re from Argentina, southern Patagonia,’ I realised. Chey, then what’s the difference between Argentina and Brazil, he asks, his teenage imagination conflating the entire continent of South America like we sometimes do Africa.

Well, all the way up to Bahia would be over 2,500miles. Or 4024 km. Slightly shorter than a 7-hour plane ride from Singapore to Tokyo.

Far too many miles up -far too near the equator- from where the penguins are supposed to search for food.

Most wash up as dead carcasses, others literally keel over in exhaustion, bellies empty. Probable whys are known: anomalous currents have carried the anchovy stream too far north, pushed by stronger winds, by strong cold waters from the melting Antarctic. Young penguins, vulnerable of age and weakened by hunger, get swept along the currents.

Already dwindling supplies of anchovy and small fish, scooped by fishing trawlers parked along the coast; there’re catfish bones found choking their throats and bellies- catfish they don’t usually eat, thin unlikely scraps for the fat the little ones especially need. Pollution (e.g. the ever-trendy oil spill) is the cherry on top for the endangered species- a 20 percent decline in population in the same number of years, leaving about 200,000 breeding pairs.

These facts and figures should be easy to remember. The story does sound horrific.


Some people find them cute (the ones still alive). They adopt a penguin or two, keeping them as pets.

Mused Estrella, “Isn’t this better than to be swimming around, lost in the waves?”

I think that makes another scary headline.

[Uruguay, Piriapolis. ]


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