Penguins on postage stamps
The new stamps of South Georgia depict Chinstrap penguins. There are four stamp designs released as stamps with values of 2 x 55p, 1 x 65p and 1 x 95p. Each postage stamp bears the WWF Panda symbol. These stamps are available in a number of different formats, namely, sheets of 50 (2 x 25 with gutter), sheetlets of 16 (4 sets) in staggered se-tenant format and a shape cut s/s (a first for the WWF) containing 1 set of stamps.
Chinstrap penguins, Pygoscelis antarcticus, are named after the distinctive thin black band of feathers which runs from one side of the head to the other, just under their bill and which resembles the chin strap of a helmet. Their coat of feathers is dense for insulation and water proofing, and they have a thick layer of blubber as an energy store. The chicks have gray backs and white fronts and the adults have black backs and white fronts.
Chinstrap penguins feed on small shoaling fish and krill. Their main predator is the leopard seal, the eggs and chicks are preyed upon by sheath bills and brown skuas.
These penguins communicate through ritual behaviors of head and flipper waving, calling, bowing, gesturing and preening. Stares, pointing and charging may occur when territorial disputes arise. They live and breed in large colonies on ice-free slopes where they build nests using stones. During courtship the male pumps his chest and stretches his head upwards. He emits loud screeching sounds, which the others join in - it is thought that this helps to synchronize the breeding cycle.
Strong pair bond
Chinstrap penguins form a strong pair bond, returning each year to the same nest site with the same partner. They lay two eggs late in November that are incubated by both parents in 5-10 day shifts. After five to six weeks in early January the chicks hatch but remain in the nest for a further 20-30 days before they join the crèche (where young penguins huddle together for warmth). At seven weeks old and after molting the chicks go to sea.
There are colonies of Chinstrap penguins on South Georgia although the main concentrations in the Territory are on the South Sandwich Islands - a string of remote volcanic islands, which stretch in an arc south-east of South Georgia. Because of the remoteness and inhospitable nature of these Islands the colonies there are rarely visited and were last surveyed in 1997.
Mass mortality of penguins
The Chinstrap penguins on South Georgia are more frequently seen and a recent tourist visit caused considerable concern when in late 2004 South Georgia Government received a report from MV Polar Pioneer of a mass mortality of birds in the Cooper Bay Chinstrap colony. As a precaution the site was immediately closed to all visitors. Veterinary staff in Stanley in the Falkland Islands confirmed that Avian Cholera was the cause of the illness.
Since then the health of the colony has been monitored and the bird numbers have recovered well. However, Government has adopted a precautionary approach and the site remains closed to all visitors to avoid possible transfer of the pathogen to other healthy colonies. It is not yet known whether the disease is endemic or had been imported from elsewhere.
However there are now increased bio-security measures in place for all visitors to South Georgia which require strict inspections and cleaning of clothing and equipment both on arrival and on any movement between sites.
Postage stamps in detail
Issue: South Georgia, 10 July 2008
Stamp design: Owen Bell
Print: Lithography by BDT International Security Printing
Perforation: 14 per 2cms
Stamp size: 28.45 x 42.58mm
More information Postage Stamps
Postage Stamps 2008
Stamps South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands
South Georgia Fisheries
International Polar Year
Scouts of the Quest
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