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Emperor penguins swap cold for Beijing
By Sun Xiaohua in Beijing ´╝čand Zheng Yanyan in Dalian (China Daily)
Updated: 2005-04-27 06:16

More than 300 people, including adults and children, were fascinated by the documentary the "March of the Emperors," shot by a French director and shown at a Beijing's cinema earlier this month. The documentary was about Emperor penguins, which live in the South Pole.

Now these people have been given the opportunity to see these wonderful birds for themselves at several cities across China.

Six Emperor penguins have arrived in the capital from the South Pole. They have settled down at Beijing Pacific Underwater World, and greeted local visitors on Sunday after spending one month in quarantine.

Two of the six will go on tour to Nanjing, capital of Jiangsu Province of East China, during International Labour Day holiday week.

Scientists who carried out an Antarctica expedition between last October to March have brought a total of eight Emperor penguins back to China. Two of them have gone to Dalian, a port city in Northeast China's Liaoning Province. The other six will be based in Beijing.

"The Emperor penguins brought back to China will be used in exhibitions, for education and for research into their living and mating habits," said Shi Xiaomin, president of the Beijing Pacific Underwater World. He is an expert engaged in the study of marine animals and participated in the 150-day Antarctic expedition.

"We brought these penguins back according to rules set out in the Antarctic Treaty. They are not allowed to be involved in commercial deals," he said.

"There are thousands of people coming to see them every day," said Shi. "They are living in an environment created specially to resemble the South Pole. We hope they will mate so these lovely penguins can stay in Beijing forever."

He added: "Emperor penguins are the symbol of the Antarctic. They are important for scientific research since they are the only birds that reproduce in winter. Also, Emperor penguins can play a special role in the public education about environmental protection." Emperor penguins are usually 1.2 metres tall and weigh 30-40 kilogrammes. They mainly eat small fish. There are about 220,000 Emperor penguins currently in the South Pole.

In Dalian, the pair of Antarctic Emperor penguins settled into their new home on Sunday.

They will be on show during the May Day vacation.

"Even in famous aquariums, it's rare to see Emperor penguins," an aquarium staff member Tang Ping told China Daily.

The move has obtained approval from related organizations, and does not contravene the Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty.

The two penguins, together with the expedition staff, arrived in Shanghai Port on March 24 and then was transported to Beijing.

After one month's adjustment in the capital, they came to this port city on a cold storage truck, full of ice. They ate fish twice during the 15-hour journey.

"The state of the penguins is still not steady, they are a bit frightened due to the sudden change in their living environment," Tang said.

(China Daily 04/27/2005 page3)

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