Dedicated Penguin Parents PDF Print E-mail

I believe that the penguins should be awarded the Dedicated Parents of the Year Award! Not only are penguins a perfect poster child for True Love Waits with their inflexible monogamy and lifelong faithfulness to their mate, but the penguins also evidence the most extraordinary lifestyle of sacrifice for their children.


Millions of Emperor Penguins inhabit the frozen wasteland of the Antarctic. The penguin’s breeding cycle occurs in mid-winter. As the female lays the single egg, the father immediately takes over by grasping it and cradling it on top of his feet. The blood vessels in the penguin’s feet are structured in such a way that they prevent a loss of heat. Loose layers of skin around the stomach gently fold over the shell keeping the egg warm. For two months the male penguin must balance the egg on his webbed feet. If at any time the egg touches the frozen ice it would die.

Thousands of penguin fathers huddle together facing inwards in an effort to conserve energy and warmth. They store up a large mass of fat to survive this two month fast. Amidst snow avalanches and ice break-ups, these penguin fathers resolutely protect the egg and the developing embryo inside the egg. For the life of its child, the penguin father restricts his activities, setting aside his personal needs and wants, neither eating, nor moving much, for over two months. It is only because of these sacrifices that the young emperor penguins are able to survive. In fact, the emperor penguins have a survival rate greater than any other species of penguin. This is a tribute to the self-sacrifice of the penguin fathers.PenguinsAndBaby

Then when the chick hatches, the male continues to cradle it on its feet, feeding it from his own mouth. The father continues to brood the young chick until the mother returns from fishing in the sea. When the mother returns and assumes the brooding responsibilities, the male can at last journey to the sea, catch fish and recover his strength. When the male returns, he brings in a new supply of food for the chick and the mother. The close nit, dedicated family bond of the penguins should be an inspiration to human families.

In Psalm 147:16-17 we read: “He spreads the snow like wool and scatters the frost like ashes. He hurls down his hail like pebbles. Who can withstand his icy blast?” In the Antarctic it is the emperor penguin alone who can survive the prolonged sub-zero and violent winter. The penguins method of gaining warmth by huddling close together illustrates the truth of Ecclesiastes 4:9-12. “Two are better than one…if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Where one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.”

WadingOutThe rigid discipline and self-sacrifice of the penguin fathers is a beautiful illustration of the quality of dedication which God requires of husbands and fathers. “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the Church and gave Himself up for her.” Ephesians 5:25

Rescuing Penguins

When a Red Chinese ship sank near Cape Town with 1600 tonnes of oil on board, the pollution threatened the 53 000 African penguins which live around our shores. The Cape Peninsula is home to a unique species of African Penguins. With the oil polluting their water and food supply these penguins were in danger of dying from starvation or dehydration, unless they died from exposure in the cold Atlantic ocean first. Seabirds have a natural waterproofing against sea water in the form of overlapping feathers coated by a body oil generated within their systems. The oil affects this insulation causing the bird to become waterlogged and hypothermic. Birds that are oiled cannot feed, develop lung, liver and kidney diseases and - if not swiftly and effectively treated - die painful deaths.

They would all need to be rescued, cleaned, fed, rehydrated and medicated and once their natural habitat had been cleaned up, reintroduced back into the wild. At the same time as about 30 000 oiled penguins were being cleaned, treated and fed, another 20 000 clean penguins had to be transported 800 kms away to Port Elizabeth. From there they would swim back to their home islands off the shores of the Cape Peninsula. By the time they returned home, the oil was to have been cleaned up.

PeterAtSanccobMembers and affiliates of Frontline Fellowship were among those Capetonians who responded to the crisis. Donning plastic overalls, rubber boots and rubber gloves, we waded in to clean, weigh, feed and medicate these fiesty little animals - who often seemed to fancy our fingers more than the fish! Several of our people specialised in feeding the baby penguins - tubing a glucose solution and a gruel (fish milkshake) into them. Some of us even introduced some of these orphans to their first whole fish ever.

Ultimately this was the largest, and most successful, penguin rescue operation in history. And it was achieved by volunteers. There was a general consensus that it is pleasing to the Lord when we show appreciation and practical concern for His creation.

It is our Christian duty to do all we can to help reverse some of the suffering caused by man's sinfulness and carelessness.

Peter Hammond

P O Box 74 
Cape Town 
South Africa 
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