The Penguins of Punta Tombo Nature Reserve
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What is it about penguins that makes them so lovable, so fascinating, and so much fun to watch? Is it their non-confrontational appearance? The Charlie Chaplin waddle? It may be that, in a lot of ways, they're a lot like us. And you don't have to be a wildlife expert to see how. You just have to watch them a little while.
Between September and April, somewhere between one and two million Magellan penguins – named after the Portuguese explorer, who was the first European to spot them – head down the coast for an annual vacation that's all business: the business of making new penguins. Punta Tombo is their all-inclusive resort, with a never-ending seafood buffet and beautiful beaches to play on – beaches so exclusive that humans are roped off from the parts they like.
Depending on when you visit, you could see them fighting over the best real estate, digging out their burrows, chatting with the neighbors, plunging into the surf, or keeping an eye on the kids, They're teaching them what they need to know to survive in a less-than-hospitable corner of the world: the arid east coast of Argentine Patagonia. Eventually, the fluffy-feathered little chicks return as adults and pass on their knowledge to the next generation.
Not that much different from us.
The really cool thing about Punta Tombo is that there are trails that take you right to the edge of the colony – and since Magellan penguins are fairly curious and even playful creatures, you can get in some penguin-person quality time in. Contact is strictly prohibited, but they generally find you as amusing as you do them.
Although they sometimes argue about who takes out the trash
Feeding the kids, nest improvement, tidying up the burrow – unlike species that have very defined male and female roles, Magellan penguins tend to share parental duties. And they're monogamous – more so than humans, by some accounts. In 2012, researchers at Punta Tombo identified two that had remained faithful for 16 years – roughly the equivalent of a 50-year marriage.
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