Everyone who saw the movie raved about it! I heard nothing but superlatives and praise from animal lovers and non-animal loves alike so I saw it a few years ago with my grandchildren. I was absolutely horrified!! I would have fled the theater were it not for my little grand-daughter who was transfixed and unafraid.
I could not for the life of me understand why the movie makers made this movie. Yes they are beautiful birds but seriously… How this could species develop such a dysfunctional lifestyle and still survive? It’s beyond me. Couldn’t these Penguins find a closer place to nest and bear their young? Really they had to walk 50 miles to lay their egg? Their ONE EGG! 50 miles!? Really do you know how hard it is to walk 50 miles? And in single file? And on the freezing ice with no boots? What was wrong with these birds that they couldn’t figure out walking so far and going without food for so long was to their disadvantage?? Really? What was so special about that place 50 miles away that they couldn’t have found a nice spot, say 1/2 mile away? At least then they could get food while they raise their baby.
And what about that camera crew? They stood idly by taking pictures while these birds were suffering! Why didn’t they do something? Couldn’t they find a way to drop a few hundred bucket-loads of fish onto these starving freezing Penguins? Seriously we’re supposed to be the big brains of the animal world, what’s with that? Get in your helicopter, fly back to land, grab a few nets, drag them through the ocean and fly the fish out to these freezing birds! There are baby birds there standing on their parents’ feet freezing their baby bird beaks off! Can’t you help them? Don’t you care? This beautiful, brave and not so smart species could use a little help guys. Hell, fly to a Food Lion and pick them up some tuna!
Yes I agree they were magnificent to watch as they huddled together for warmth. And those pictures of the male and female Emperor Penguin heads poised together were some of the best animal shots ever taken. And yes, it was amazing that they could discern each other’s voices in the cacophony of a million calls but hey, the overall picture is pretty bleak. Not just that they have this instinctive pattern which causes unnecessary suffering but that we sit in theaters or living rooms and admire it! That’s just plain scary.
I think some dedicated ornithologists specializing in Birds of Antarctica (of course these are the only birds living there) should try to retrain them. After all nothing else lives there. They have no natural (or unnatural) predators living on that ice slab with them. Their enemies are in the water not the land, I mean ice, so why, one might ask, do these birds make those journeys of nearly 50 miles to lay their eggs? It makes no sense. Some dedicated bird lovers ought to take some time out of their busy life studying birds whose lifestyle works for them to help these Emperor Penguins restructure their patterns.
Take the Yellow Warbler for example. Now there’s a happy little bird that knows how to live. In the spring, they breed in their northern homes and when it gets cold they fly south. They build pretty little nests, raise their young and sing beautiful songs. They avoid predators by remaining alert and flying quick.
Or take Crows as another example. Now they don’t sing like larks and they certainly aren’t beautiful like Emperor Penguins but they are smart enough to use tools like sticks to help get their food. And they are not fussy eaters; they eat almost anything they can find from seeds to roadkill. Very adaptable they live in most any setting, fields, beaches or cities and manage to make things work for them. You may not like them very much but Crows would be good role models for those Penguins. Drag a few Crows with you the next time you go down to Antarctica and see if they can teach those Penguins a few things. Maybe they can find a closer place to nest so that they aren’t walking for days just to get to their food.
So, being more of a sociologist than an ornithologist I might theorize that the problem of the Emperor Penguins results from social isolation, lack of exposure to different wildlife cultures, species and lifestyles resulting in an overly rigid family system that rejects the concept of change. They are determined to do things the same way from generation to generation. “If it was good enough for my grandmother Penguin it is good enough for me.” I might note that their fierce devotion to their land and life style, their patterns and habits is not unlike certain human cultures we might recognize. As I stand back and think about this Penguin dilemma I can see that many human cultures may be less but overall are not so different. We can learn a lot from our lesser species. We can see that those able to adapt and make changes survive longer and better than those who don’t. We can notice what isn’t working for us and realize that if something isn’t working, it’s time to change. Good luck with that!