Thursday, January 27, 2011

Grief of the penguins: Scores of birds bowed in mourning after the deaths of their chicks


Mass mourning: Scores of Emperor penguins in an act of communal grief after the deaths of their chicks in Antarctica

Prostrate on the icy tundra of the Antarctic, they appear the picture of misery after the deaths of their chicks.

The extraordinary image capturing penguins in an act of mass mourning was taken on the Riiser Larsen Ice Shelf in Antarctica by photographer Daniel J. Cox.

He has spent 25 years travelling from pole to pole documenting everything from polar bears to penguins and getting up close and personal is all in a day's work.

'Part of my job is to accept that with the spectacular sights of nature also come the stark facts of life, and to see Emperor Penguins mourning in a human-like way over the death of their chicks is heart-wrenching,' he said.

'They hunch over like they are in a state of grief and they wander around the frozen ice wastes attempting to locate their chicks.

Distressing: The bodies of the chicks lie on the Riiser Larsen Ice Shelf

'It is difficult to say how and why they died, but I was told by other scientists that it was not unheard of.

'Weather and things like starvation, if there is a food shortage, can cause this kind of sad event.'

Up close and personal: An inquisitive polar bear shuffles right up to the camera at Hudson Bay, in Churchill, Manitoba, Canada

Camera man: Daniel Cox with a group of penguins and his camera equipment in Antarctic

But there have been many happier moments for the photographer, who has also spent a lot of time in Canada observing the wildlife there.

'One of my most pleasing pictures of the past quarter century has been to capture a female polar bear from just millimetres away,' he said.

'I travel from a base in Churchill in Manitoba, Canada, using a specially designed Tundra Buggy known as Buggy One, donated to the charity Polar Bears International by Frontiers North Adventures.

'It's specifically designed for PBI's work to capture still and moving images in the harsh environment of the Arctic.

'I was able to lower my camera through a hatch in the bottom of the Buggy One where we had come across a polar bear and her two cubs.

'The camera stirred her curiosity and while investigating she licked the lens and I had to spend the next twenty minutes cleaning off polar bear saliva.

'If you interrupt a polar bear in its natural environment just for the sake of an incredible never-seen-before photo you are running the risk of being attacked.

Baby bear: A polar cub climbs a tree near Churchill, Manitoba, Canada

'And if you are attacked, that bear will have to be destroyed. That goes against everything that I believe in as a wildlife photographer.'

'The difference I have seen in the Arctic environment over the past two decades has been mind boggling,' said Daniel, 50, who lives in the town of Bozeman in the American state of Montana.

'Polar bears need to make their way onto the ice to feed and in 1987 the bears were able to return to the ice by mid November.

'That didn't happen until December 7 last year. That means that the bears are missing nearly an entire month without the opportunity to feed properly.

'Scientists estimate that the polar bear population in the Western area of Hudson Bay may be extinct within 30 years, or at the very least suffer a dramatic reduction.'

When two bears go to war: The huge creatures wrestled in Churchill, Manitoba, Canada, as photographer Daniel Cox caught the moment on camera

source: dailymail

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