Penguin Parade

I visited Philip Island in Melbourne, Australia (just to make sure you know I am not talking about Melbourne,USA. It’s weird when places share names-there is a Mangalore in Australia! Who would have thought that!!!) last week.

Anyway, this island is a popular weekend destination in Melbourne, and one of the things it is very famous for is Penguin Parade.  There is no mystery or suspense-it is exactly what its name says it is. So after sunset, hundreds and hundreds of penguins which have been hunting the sea all day long, come out at the shore and in groups, walk back to their burrows on land.  They form groups, because as everyone knows, there is safety in numbers. The wide, open skies are teeming with predators ready to swoop down on an unwitting loner.

Whatever their reasons, the little penguins (they really are little; the smallest penguins in the world, I am told) parading down to their homes provide quite a spectacle to the hundreds of people gathered to see them.  In their world, we must be like the fifth dimension-something the practical penguins couldn’t care less about, we might as well not be there. And yet it’s funny how we can make money out of their most mundane activity-the simple act of walking home after a long day.

And walking is what they are doing, for I don’t know how else to describe it. Balancing themselves on two feet, and stretching their wings like someone walking a tightrope would raise his arms, they look like old women.  As they turn their head this way and that, looking for their burrow, I wonder what must be running through their tiny brains. Something on the lines of “gee, I am so tired I can’t find my way back home. Where was my burrow.. now let’s see was it this way? Maybe not…”

My scientific training warns me against attributing human emotions to these creatures but looking at them, I can’t help but wonder if unknown to us, they are capable of that which turned us from beasts to men-manipulating symbolic thought.

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