The African penguin might be one of the most charismatic birds on the planet.

What they lack in good looks, they more than make up for in personality. Unfortunately, their population has been plummeting for decades. In addition to natural predation from sharks, whales, leopards, and even cats and dogs; they’ve also lost precious beach front habitat, had oil spills wipe out entire populations, and had to compete for food with us humans because we like to eat the same fish.

They have recently been declared an endangered species by the IUCN and protected by the governments of South Africa and Namibia. Of all things however, the biggest obstacle to their population growth has been – poop. More accurately, the lack thereof. The guano of the African penguin keeps the nest at a constant temperature and protects the developing chick inside of it’s egg. Their guano also makes a cheap fertilizer, something that humans have taken advantage of.

So, a group of organizations spearheaded by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums is leading the way in the protection of this lovable species by producing artificial nests. To raise money, they launched a Kickstarter campaign to produce and deploy these nest boxes.

Once they learned about the project our Creative Animal Tour Hosts, Tim and Steph had to help out. So they took a day and visited the nearby Maryland Zoo and visited their brand new, state-of-the-art Penguin Coast habitat. This exhibit is not only one of the best captive breeding facilities in the world, it is also a measure in sustainability: saving the zoo countless gallons of water compared to their old exhibit.

Tim and Steph got some great pictures and videos from the visit, but the most entertaining thing was the relationship between the birds and the bumble bees. Check out this video to see them in action:

And check out the finished painting by Tim Davison, “The Birds And The Bees”

Oil on Wood

12″ x  24″