Friday, 2 December 2011

"I felt jolly nearly blubbing!". Frank Wild, Antarctic explorer

King Penguin, South Georgia
Hello again,

In my previous post, I wondered about how Edinburgh Zoo could keep African Wild Dogs in a small enclosure, given that they hunt over vast ranges in the wild.  I've received a reply from the Zoo saying the enclosures are legal (so that's allright, then), but yes, feeding them meat is tricky as the dogs have evolved to hunt down their prey and eat it fresh (sometimes even before the prey is dead).  The Zoo is not allowed to feed live animals to their inmates.  (Apologies if you were looking for fluffy penguin stories.  Later!)

This is their way of dealing with diseases in rotting corpses.  They are not scavengers, like hyenas.  I'm told a zoo somewhere in Europe is experimenting with a pulley system and tying meat to a wire that moves it in such a way to get the dogs to "chase" it.  Let's hope that keeps the dogs happy.

Meanwhile, the zoo's partners in Wild Dog research are the Namibia Nature Foundation -  which provides lots of useful information about the endangered predators.

It says that, in the wild, a pack of dogs can range over 3,000 square kms!  And easily cover 20-40 miles per day. So I'm not sure how well they are going to enjoy their space in Edinburgh. Ho hum.  I imagine the 2 Giant Pandas arriving this weekend will overshadow other zoo residents.  If only the Chinese took as much interest in preserving rhinos - 300 killed in South Africa alone this year.

Chicks (centre) at South Georgia rookery 
 The reason I went to Edinburgh Zoo was primarily to see the penguins.  The Zoo has pioneered breeding of penguins (although penguins in the wild seem to be doing OK in terms of keeping the species alive, since we stopped slaughtering them for their oil).

I understand the Zoo provides penguins from their breeding programme to other zoos.
King Penguins enjoying a view that Shackleton saw on South Georgia.
In January 2011, I'll be going to the Falkland Islands, where millions of penguins breed.  I was interested in assisting the Falklands Conservation team -

an organisation that tries to preserve wildlife in this unique habitat (and is a partner with Edinburgh Zoo).  It was set up by Sir Peter Scott in 1979.  If you visit that site, you can see how far the King Penguins swim for food: sometimes 1800kms to Antarctica and back!  The BBC's "Frozen Planet" just scratches the surface!
Criminal penguin clip

Also in the news this week has been the re-burying of Frank Wild, the great Polar Explorer, who visited the region 5 times (more than Scott and Shackleton together!).  When Shackleton's ship, Endurance, was crushed by the ice, and the crew escaped in small boats to Elephant Island, Wild stayed behind for 6 months while Shackleton and 5 others sailed off to seek rescue.  They landed on South Georgia after one of the most heroic voyages in history.  It took 3 attempts to sail back to Elephant Island to rescue the 20 men living on penguin and seal meat under 2 upturned boats.

When finally rescued by Shackleton, Wild is reported to have said, "I felt jolly nearly blubbing!".

It's now recognised that this was the end of the Heroic Age of Polar Exploration.  Expect many documentaries and articles soon celebrating the centenary of Amundsen and Scott reaching the South Pole.

Melbourne Age - Heroic Age explorers

Wild's remains are now beside Shackleton's grave on South Georgia.  For details of the service, visit Ashley Perrin's excellent first-hand blog -

Frank Wild article

Sir Ernest Shackleton's grave, South Georgia
I need to start packing!


No comments:

Post a Comment