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Most of us would confess to have a soft spot for these charismatic birds. Pengu…

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Most of us would confess to have a soft spot for these charismatic birds. Penguins spread across our daily lives, featuring on items such as biscuit wrappers and book covers through to Christmas and birthday cards, as well as starring in animations on cinema and television screens. We focus on their comedic waddle, their fl ightless vulnerability, their enduring parental care in the frozen tundra. Who could fail to care for these birds?

But for those still unsure of a penguin’s charm, there is one woman in particular who could change their minds. Her name is Dyan deNapoli, whose infectious passion for protecting penguins has earned her the moniker, ‘The Penguin Lady’. She is a penguin expert and educator. Dyan is on a mission to raise awareness and help to save these very special and endangered birds. And it all began after being surrounded by penguins at Boston’s New England Aquarium, when she became smitten and captivated by their antics.

But it requires a lot of dedication — saving penguins is rewarding and stressful in equal measure. Chicks need feeding every few hours with freshly prepared and specialised food, and constantly weighed to monitor their growth. Dyan has spent many nights awake with worry; life is tenuous for young animals and penguin chicks are no exception. But her dedication to save these birds is vital because of the severe conservation status of many penguin species.

It's a worrying possibility as penguins, as we all know, aren’t usual birds: they’re fl ightless, spend long periods of time in the water chasing food, are long-lived and take months to raise chicks; all features that make them very susceptible to natural and man-made disasters. Crucially, penguins have important — even critical — roles to play in the ecosystem of the ocean and on land. There are 18 recognized species of penguins in the world today, with 13 of them currently in trouble.

But it’s much more than these birds’ loveable nature and striking good looks that makes deNapoli so passionate about penguins. She has been extremely concerned about threatened and endangered species since childhood. “When I learned about the conservation status of most penguin species, I became determined to educate the public about them.” And as most species have seen a 50–95% decline over the last 50–100 years, there is plenty to worry about — especially when it's known that healthy populations of penguins mean healthy oceans.

On rocky shores, beaches, coastal forests, and sea-ice penguins come ashore to breed and raise their young. And here some populations are still at risk from egg poaching, habitat loss, and human disturbance. Being fl ightless they are particularly vulnerable to introduced predators, such as rats, cats and foxes, that shouldn’t naturally be there. It is the main problem.

Dyan has first-hand experience of the devastating impact of oiling on these seabirds. There have been many tragic examples to deal with, but perhaps the most notable, she says, occurred in 2000 when an ore carrier called the MV Treasure sank off the coast of Cape Town, South Africa spilt more than 1,300 tonnes of oil into the ocean. It threatened a large proportion of the endangered African penguins and prompted an international rescue mission involving 12,500 volunteers, who were quickly on scene. It was a crisis that deNapoli couldn’t ignore and rushed to the aff ected area, where she worked as a supervisor and bird rehabilitation manager on this historic team. Together they relocated 19,500 birds before they became oiled, and cleaned and nursed back to health 91% of the 20,000 birds that were actually aff ected by the oil.

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How does the author characterize Dyan’s activity?

  1. Her work is satisfying but nerve-racking.
  2. Her work is complicated but profitable.
  3. Her work is responsible but interesting.
  4. Her work is important but dangerous.

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