Monday, December 05, 2005

Animal of the Week December 05, 2005 -- March of the penguins

If 2005 is going to be remembered for one animal (assuming Siegfried and Roy don't get back on stage in the next few weeks), it's going to be this week's animal Aptenodytes forsteri (emperor penguin). March of the Penguins (La Marche de l'Empereur) belly flops onto UK cinema screens on Friday, so I thought it high time to acknowledge these monochrome wonders.

The largest living penguin species, emperors are the only vertebrates to brave the Antarctic winter, choosing to breed on pack ice or land 100 km from the edge of the Southern Ocean. I've not yet seen this film (naturally I can hardly contain my excitement), but the remarkable journey of monogamous couples, their dedication to the family that means the male loses nearly half his bodyweight waiting for the egg to hatch then goes to replenish his reserves while the fatted female goes through a similar weight loss (think Oprah Winfrey dressed as a nun), and the cooperation between the penguins huddling together for warmth has inspired Christian bods to claim this as evidence of God's work. Messages of love, perseverence, positivity, and the existence of a creator are the very fabric of this film by all acounts, and US Christian groups block bought tickets for it because they think (a) it promotes christian values of mongamy and dedication to the family and (b) it is evidence of intelligent design by an omnipotent being, because only an all knowing creator could create a situation in which 120 cm tall birds trek 70 miles across frozen wastelands to stand their ground through the harshest weather in order to raise one chick. I contend their point on two main grounds: first I've never once heard mention of the chritsian values of having feathers and existing solely on a diet of squid; second that's just not intelligent design, it's bloody stupid design—for a start an intelligent designer wouldn't come up with flightless birds. Furthermore, they're not even monogamous, each year they pair up differently.

There are a couple of great Christian film-review websites, checkout the WISDOM score on the Capalert site (; Not wanting to bombard you with Christian propaganda (apparently bona fide male geese are also evidence of God's work [booom boooom]), here's a counterpoint to the intelligent design theory in the website (see why global warming has caused a decline in pirates).

Anyway, that's it from me, what a big one. Next week I'm going to start the end-of-year review proceedings and would like your suggestions of your favourite animals of the week of 2005. I'll send a complete list so you can pick ones you didn't get if you only recently joined.


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