Tuesday, 31 January 2017

South American Penguin update

Dear PenguinPromises


The chicks have been growing quickly and they are now almost as big as Promises.

They now leave the nest each day to explore the area around the nest in preparation for leaving the colony. I attach a photo of the chicks so that you can see just how big they have grown in such a short time..


Childhood is very short for a penguin. The chicks leave the nest to begin life on their own after just two months from hatching. During those two short months they increase their weight 30 times, from about 100 grams at birth to about 3000 grams when they leave. They change from tiny balls of fluff into full-sized penguins in just 8 weeks, when food is in good supply, which it is here.


At the moment whenever the weather is nice, the chicks leave the nest to do their flipper exercises. They flap their flippers up and down as fast as they can as though they expect to fly, but these exercises play a very important role in building good strong flipper muscles which the chicks will need when they leave the colony to begin life as a juvenile. Once out at sea they will have to swim long distances and need to be ready for the journey.


The chicks have fluffy chick feathers when they are small. These fluffy feathers are wonderful for keeping the chicks nice and warm when the feathers are dry, but the fluffy feathers are no use at all when they get wet. They soak up water like a sponge and make swimming impossible. So the chicks are now shedding their fluffy chick feathers and replacing them with sleek, shiny feathers that are waterproof.


The new juvenile feathers do not soak up the water. They are coated with wax which the penguins produce in a gland near to the tail. They spread this wax over the feathers during grooming. Penguins spend a lot of time grooming themselves and each other. Keeping the feathers waxed is one of the reasons for grooming, and the other reason is to remove ticks and fleas.


The new feathers will keep the chicks warm and dry even when swimming. The waxy feathers interlock together using microscopic hooks, providing a waterproof barrier that works in a similar way to the black wet-suits which people use for diving and surfing. The new feathers are like the feathers of Promises, but without the black lines of the adults which only appear when the penguins reach 5 years of age..


Once these new feathers have finished growing the chicks will be ready to leave the colony and go out to sea on their own. Penguins are born to swim and are always happiest out in the open ocean. The excitement when the chicks first enter the water is a joy to see. They splash around, leap in and out of the water, and float around on their backs splashing water over themselves to bathe.


At the moment it is a difficult job for Promises to catch enough food to feed the ever hungry chicks. Their rapid growth means that the chicks can eat more than Promises can catch. The adults both set off as soon as the sun rises at about 5 o'clock in the morning, and spend all day out at sea catching fish for the chicks. The chicks cannot go into the water yet, until the new feathers are ready, so they must stay at home and wait for supper. The chicks don't get breakfast or lunch, just supper.


The adults don't get home until late afternoon or early evening, and even after supper the chicks still complain that they are hungry. The chicks in our colony are well fed and food supply is not a problem here, which is why the chicks here grow so quickly. In colonies where food is in short supply, such as in the Falkland Islands, chick growth can take as long as 16 weeks, twice what it is here.


The chicks here eat a quarter of their own body weight every single day. The adults work 12 to 15 hours a day catching enough food for the chicks. They get no weekends and no days off to relax. Before they started rearing the chicks the adults weighed about 6 kg and now they weigh less than 5 kg. They have lost more almost 20% of their body weight because of working so hard to feed the chicks.

It is just as well that they only have to do it for two months, otherwise poor Promises would disappear altogether.


Despite their frenetic flipper exercises, the chicks lack the strength and stamina to be fast enough to catch large fish when they leave, so during the first few months at sea they fish amongst the kelp beds feeding on small fish, shrimps and other crustaceans.


Gradually as they spend more time at sea, and build up the flipper muscles, they will become faster and will be able to leave the kelp beds and catch slightly larger fish, but it takes four years for the youngsters to fully develop the strength and stamina that they need to begin raising families of their own. Experienced adults loose 20% of their body weight rearing the chicks, which is why younger juveniles would not have the strength and endurance to raise chicks successfully.



Many people ask if they can adopt the chicks, but unfortunately we are unable to offer the chicks for adoption. I wish we could. The problem is that when the chicks leave the colony, most will not return to the colony until they are 5 years old and ready to raise chicks of their own. That means that people adopting chicks would not get any news or photos of their penguin for 5 years.


Once the chicks have left, Promises will take a long rest out at sea just catching fish and relaxing, so that they can recover the weight that they have lost over the last few weeks. This feeding and recovery is very important because about a month after the chicks have left the adults must return to the colony in order to change all their feathers, which means a period of about three weeks stranded ashore with no food. It is important for Promises and the adults to recover their lost weight before beginning a long period without food.


I will write to you again when the chicks have left the colony and the adults are returning fat and healthy to begin their annual moult (molt)..


Best wishes,  Mike




Monday, 30 January 2017

conveniently choice-free

Don’t waste a moment.  They deserve true relating.  Present choice-based communication where we honour them by allowing them to be individuals who are talking to us.  Listen and respond with grace, not ‘systems’.

My son was gifted with a record player.  What excitement.  He plugged it into our surround sound system and hauled out my record collection – unplayed for the last 25 odd years.  Not sure who was more excited as he took the LP out of its sleeve – none other than Led Zeppelin ‘Stairway to Heaven’, slipped it on, and the static crackle launched me back into nostalgic joy. 

Joy aside, it was such a great lesson.  My son was clueless on how records worked.  He was shocked that you only got to listen to four or five songs and then you had to manually turn over the record to hear the other songs.  I remembered evening with friends where we would gather around the record player and choose the songs we wanted to listen to.  We would argue and motivate what went next.  And, yes, manually do the business of putting on the song once we agreed. 


The lesson – perhaps convenience is robbing us of our responsibility to choose.  We no longer are in touch with the world.  Our fast foods are made up.  Even packets of half made foods provide convenience, but less tangible processes with mother earth.  We are no longer in touch with the world.  We are removed from her, and busy complaining about the cue in the check out line being too long.  Forgetting what time it would take if we really had to go out and harvest the trolley load of packaged material. 


So off the soap box now.  Let’s get to the animal relationship connection…What is the impact on our relationships with animals?  The modern human is addicted to systems.  Which is tantamount to the blind leading the blind.  The flat liners encouraging the unmotivated.


Rules and regulations on how to respond when something goes in a particular way are the quickest path to eradicating respectful relationships.  Question – if you hear yourself or another saying – about your dog – don’t let him jump up on you.  He is not allowed to do that.  Or the horse must respond like this when you do that.  There is a place for consistent relationship.  There is a place for clear boundaries.  However, are we always looking at the animal – from the animal’s point of view?  Or the human, for that matter.  If your four legged friend needs some comfort during a thunder storm, will he feel confident enough in relationship with you to ask for that comfort?  If your horse is startled by a snake, will he consider his response or simply throw you off and look after his own safety.


When we create relationships with people or animals, we cannot do it with rules.  We have to do it with respect.  So yes, clarity must be achieved.  However, respectfully.  With choice on both our parts.  Don’t get lost in the system.  For those of us that understand the terminology – ‘don’t get lost in the bridge’.  Or, as we have all heard – its about the journey, not the destination.


Stop, breathe – CHOOSE - act

Wednesday, 25 January 2017

Inspired by innocence

Its been said before. Enthusiasm is from Greek origin and means the God within. Enthusiasm is often socialised out of us. Put to sleep with dogma and fear. As we get older the rigidity of our opinions can harden and defend any thought or feeling that is not acceptable in our reference pack. Danger zone. That's when patterns and beliefs take away our objective enjoyment of the animals and people in our lives. Its when we stop appreciating the nature of what is. It is judgement time: When the neighbour is not fit to look after animals. When a spouse does not share our virtuous view. When the animal knows what it should be doing and is instead being naughty. When the world becomes filled with our resistance.  An angry dead end place.

Funny story. We think we inspire kids to careπŸ˜ƒπŸ˜€πŸ˜‚. Truth. They remind us that caring is empathetic. That it is without a story. That it is in the moment. Love this blessed gift that was made for me by my 9 year old friend Jemma Schnell. Horse enthusiast and lover of animals. Finder of heart wherever she goes. Truth sayer and precious angel. She is a sage!! 

Sent from my Samsung Galaxy smartphone.

Saturday, 21 January 2017

Happy Birthday Sausage

This photograph.  Taken on the 1st of January 2000.  At 6am in the morning.  New Year’s eve time with dolphins is something that animal care staff do.  No better way to see in the New Year.  And how beautiful is this angel Kelpie.  33 years old today. 


Such a gentleman.  When I started working at with him, Kelpie was 6 years old.  And already a charmer of note.  If you ask him to retrieve a toy, even today, he will be extra obliging – helping you get it out of the water.  He is a confidence builder.  In people and in animals.  He has taught so many animal trainers that they are good enough.  He is the stable soul that we will introduce new young animals to, and he takes them patiently under his flipper, and shows them the ropes.  Special memories.  Like when he was practising behaviours he was trained with Khwezi – the newest addition to the bachelor group – Khwezi did not know the behaviours yet, but Kelpie was teaching him them.  When he mimiced the alarm, so that he could get the trainers to rush to say hello at a whim.  How he will happily play with trainers for hours.  If you are there, so is he.  How creative he is.  Him and Freya coming up with a dual behaviour at the same time to a cue they had never see before.  That special bond with Freya.  His wicked sense of humour.  How he will sit and stare at you when you ask him for a behaviour, and you know that he knows what you want him to do.  And just when you are about to give up asking, he playfully offers the behaviour.  How he measures up people.  Slowly, deliberately.  Watching, and checking to see if he can play the game.  His gentle being.  Standing in the water, just cuddling him.  And his super enthusiasm after that water encounter.  When he jumps higher than ever. 

There were those before I started working that told me tales of Kelpie.  He was the first calf ever born at Sea World.  Observations of the miracle were exciting, and covered by scientists.  Many lessons learned, and written up scientifically.  His playful nature.  Eager enthusiasm.  They were apparently prevalent from the start. 

And he has taught us all so much about animal training.  What is possible through trust and faith.  That a nearly 400 kilogram animal can be a gentle giant.

Kelpie angel.  So grateful that I know you.  And I know I speak for so many.  You are a gem.  It is so easy to love you.  And we do!  Happy Birthday Superstar

Head in the Sand

Our world has gone made.  Legislating about everything rather than looking at what needs doing. 


There is no right or wrong, just opinion.  This is the case when we only do ‘right or wrong’ based on the outcome we will receive from others.  So I don’t cross the road or I will get a smack from my mum.  Or I do my homework so I can get my pocket money.  It starts when we are kids.  We are trained not to think for ourselves.  Not to consider the best thing to do.  We are trained about what is right or wrong.  We stop seeing things for the greater good.  Because we are not facilitated to consider that.  We stay small.  We are trained to be selfish.

Then we grow up, and don’t speed our cars to avoid the camera trap.  Or we save up our money to buy the designer jeans so our friends will think we are cool.  And we drive past the beggar with judgement justifying our ignoring his plea.  Or we celebrate the supermodel, calling her a good role model for our kids.


Then we get fed information that keeping animals in captivity is wrong.  And we become activists so we can have our photograph taken next to a banner that identifies us as a goodie.  Or we campaign against a zoo, by pressing the like button on facebook at the same time as we eat our fast food burger(no thought to how hectic the burger is for the world).  We sign petitions without doing research.  We make uniformed rash arguments because our friends think the same way.  In essence –

We worry too much about what others think about us, and too little about what is really going on.


I am not saying that animals in captivity are ‘right’.  There are good zoos and aquariums and bad ones.  But here are some thoughts.

-          We have come so far in the captivity industry.  Welfare is improving daily.  And this is great, not only for the animals in our care, but also for the lessons it teaches us about their wild counterparts.

-          The ‘wild’ is in trouble.  Welfare in the wild is scary.  Animals are going extinct at a rapid rate.  We need captivity – to learn, to propagate, and in hope – to reintroduce animals back to the wild when the wild is ‘fixed’

-          The captive industry is hugely responsible for any empathy that people have with nature and the wild.  My children grew up in South Africa and have been fortunate to go out to see and spend quality time in the bush – and yet I know that they have great empathy with the ocean because of time spent in aquariums – where they were educated, and given an opportunity to get close and create connections to something beyond themselves.


If we phase out captivity – is there hope for nature?  I would love to believe this.  I fear, however that the result will be no animals in sight for the majority of people on our planet.  The documentaries will muddle dinosaurs and dolphins, dodos and giraffes.  Nobody will know what is real.  The remoteness of the critters will mean that nothing will be done to help the animals with a chance.  Virtual reality will take over.


I had a discussion with an educated cashier yesterday when I purchased some items at a hardware store.  I explained I did not wish for a plastic bag as it was unnecessary waste and ended up harming the world.  He said how?  I told him about animals – dolphins and turtles that die as a result of ingestion, and pollution from plastic and how it was in the fish we eat, and making us sick, and that plastic takes a long time to break down.  His retort – ‘That’s not my problem.  I don’t eat fish.  Plastic eventually will break down.’ 

Connection is everything.  When I have spent time observing a monitor and how it reacts to the world.  When I have looked into the eyes of a brindle bass.  Touched an eagle ray.  Watched a Queen Coris steal food from a Starfish. 

When I feel a part of this world, rather than the world owes me a favour, then I will begin to be a responsible citizen. 


Let’s stop shouting.  Let’s look closely at what needs doing.  No legislation will take the place of good heart.  If a zoo is bad, then let’s focus on that zoo.  Get it fixed or shut it down.  If an aquarium is good, lets get 100 000 kids to visit per month.  Change the kids and show them care.  If there is litter on the floor, pick it up.  Go for swims in the ocean, walks in the bush.  This is it!  No second chances.  We are part of something awesome!



"Do or do not; there is no try." Yoda


Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Confidence kicks

Next lesson

And this one was a paperwork lesson(-:

Not theory thankfully.


My blessed art classes with mad art teacher who keeps us grounded, guided and well-nourished with good red wine.  On the latest canvass I chose to paint a picture of my son when he was a little younger with another of our family members, beautiful horse Gandalph. 

So, all proceeded well to start with.  Until I realised that I was having a fine time painting Gandalph, but not such a fine time painting Zac.  Then I realised why.  Gandalph does not judge me.  And I am worried about Zac's opinion of me.

Freedom in the revelation.  Chatted to Zac about it.  Had a laugh, and then moved on to paint this angel as well as I could.  No more required.


Someone told me that judgement – of ourselves, or others, is a justification for a stuck mind.  Who wants a stuck mind.  Freedom in expression is only possible when we forgive ourselves our inadequacies.  In relation with animals it is easier.


So here it is again.  Gratitude for the animals in my life. 

Without this example of miracle Gandalph and my relative perspective of my son, I would  never have noticed the differences.  And as a result, I would have been far less inclined to be able to afford my son more space to simply be himself.  And myself, more space to be.




Sunday, 15 January 2017

A Lesson in Surrender


I always found the concept of surrender a cop out.  Something one would do if one was too weak to take on a situation.


So, when I found myself in a situation where I am unable to follow my passion in the most effective manner, I experienced great discomfort. 

Speaking up was immediately taken as judgement.  Even though it was never intended as that.  The presumed judgement resulted in defence.  And the drama began, and unfolded. 

 Chasms and vindication ruled.  Frustration and finger pointing.

What has this to do with animals?


For those of us that work with animals, they are like kids.  They sense how we feel.  Our moods affect them.  So, when this type of angst environment is created, the disturbance affects the creatures that we love.

The lesson – stop the angst.  It is not worth upsetting the animals.  Nothing is.  So, surrender. 

Not sure where this will go.  But I am here right now. 


And then the best part of the lesson.  Summer evenings at the stables.  I have put the three boys away for the night.  Snuggled into their necks and inhaled their horsey smell.  Business of preparing their evening done.  Time on my hands.  And I sit.  Big breath and here I am.  Listening to them finishing their dinner.  Watching the pond in the evening sunset.  Herons and hadedahs flying overhead.  My dogs beside me. And Przzy the cat is rubbing up and down on my leg.   Light cool breeze offering respite from the hot hot day.  Nothing to think about.  Nothing needs doing right now.  Just being.  This is when I remember the word surrender.  Being being being.  Enjoying the being.  In the company of Gods.  It is here all the time.  Being is surrender. 



Sunday, 8 January 2017

Great blog about interesting dog facts

Love Mr Lewis blogs. Here is a really interesting one:

From: Dog Temperament [mailto:calvin=dogtemperament.com@send.aweber.com] On Behalf Of Dog Temperament

Hi ,

Every day, we sit and watch our dogs do seemingly amazing things. But, do we really understand everything that makes our furry friends so special? In today's message I want to touch on 10 things that I find simply fascinating about dogs.

They truly are amazing creatures, with more intelligence and abilities that we give them credit for.
Let's take a closer look at just how incredibly they truly

1. Canine Ears - Dogs can register over 35,000 vibrations a second. To give you an idea of how many that is, the human ear can only register 20,000 vibrations a second. Dogs have a hearing capacity 75% greater than our own.

2. Longevity - Most people assume dogs can only live for 10+ years, but the world's oldest dogs managed to live for over 20 years. In fact, the oldest dog to ever live survived for 29 years and 5 months.

3. Seeing At Night - Dogs have a few sight myths. They can see in color, but to a very limited degree.
Additionally, they have better night vision than we do because of special reflective layers in their eyes.

4. As Warriors - Dogs have been trained to do many things in human history, including riding alongside in battle. In the middle ages, mastiffs were trained to run in alongside knights. Germans in World War II were also said to have used them to blow up tanks.

5. Jaws of Steel - A dog's jaws are its most powerful weapon. Whereas most hunters have claws as well, dogs can exert almost 200 pounds of pressure in each square inch with their jaws, far more than a human being ever could.

6. Nose Prints - Every dog has a unique nose print on par with human finger prints. In fact, these nose prints have been used in the past to identify dogs that were lost or accused of attacks.

7. Anatomy - Despite their size differences and shapes, every dog is almost identical in terms of anatomy with 321 bones and 42 permanent teeth. Variations occur in size and length of these bones of course, with large number of variants in organ placement as well.

8. Puppy Sleep - Puppies will sleep for 90% of the day for the first handful of weeks. Many people mistake this for illness and many vets will see countless "sleepy"
puppies every year.

9. Ownership - Nearly 35% of all American households own a dog and more than 5 million puppies are born in the US every year.

10. Dog's Ears - The ears of a dog have twice as many muscles as human ears. Their ability to move and control their ears is equal to our ability to swivel and bend our necks.

Some dogs have even greater control over their ears than others, with some breeds bred for dampened hearing.

As you can see, dogs are incredible animals with so many unique facts that it's impossible to think of them as anything more primal than what they are - our loving friends and pets. Their physiology, intelligence, and even their character is unique among all domesticated pets.

It's no wonder that dogs have been such a powerful companion for human beings for much of the last 12,000 years, dating back through much of recorded human history.
As long as human beings have been building homes or farming plots of land, we've had dogs by our side.

Now that's an amazing fact for you.

Before I sign off, I thought I'd mention that every dog owner NEEDS to have at least one good reference guide to their dog's health to ensure that they live a long and happy life.

If you haven't got a copy of "The Ultimate Guide to Dog Health" make sure you get one now.

Go here for full details:


All the best to a long healthy life for your dog,

Calvin Lewis
Founder, http://clicks.aweber.com/y/ct/?l=PPgNE&m=lA0Z88DvMWNO7vS&b=hnAui.nsIuXrBCTjuQhrg



13842 Outlet Dr. #A-180 Silver Spring, MD 20904, USA

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Sunday, 1 January 2017

Touching Animal Souls: 2017 - For good!

Touching Animal Souls: 2017 - For good!: Isn’t it interesting when people say “She has left for good”, or “he has given up eating meat for good”. Reminds me of a guru discussion whe...

2017 - For good!

Isn’t it interesting when people say “She has left for good”, or “he has given up eating meat for good”.

Reminds me of a guru discussion where I was told that when I am having difficulty making a decision I should think of what is good for as many as possible.  Make the decision based on the ‘good of all’, including future generations.



Imagine if we could always be this detached when making decisions.

Here is  a goal – evaluate any interaction you have with an animal with the above concept in mind.  As yourself these questions – is that for the maximum good?  Good for the animal?  And for future good welfare of that animal?  For the good of their understanding based on the species or personality they are.


For example – When I yell at the puppy for being exuberant, am I doing what is good for the puppy, and the world – or just expressing my irritation?

When I provide feedback to a fellow animal trainer on a possible mistake they have made – am I being “right”, or helpful?

When the horse jolts a little in fright and I react, am I over reacting because of fear, or is my reaction helpful to increase his confidence?


When I consider life this way I come face to face with my insecurities.  The lessons the animals teach in this light are supernova teachings.  The consciousness is true scary awakeness.  But there is a plus side when I view the fallout of who I think I am.  I can begin to see when I do things right.  When I do things for the good of all.  And then there is joy.


So, this year is following a year where I started implementing the lesson above.  It brought about a fair amount of slap-me-in-the-face teachings.  2017 is the year I intend to reap the benefits as a result of the lessons.  I intend to experience more of this…

I know I am going to enjoy finding more newsworthy stories like this one


The space for peace has been cleared.  So the result will be – the year of peace and joy


I would love to hear any good news stories that you have. 


Happy New Year.

For the good of all.