In the harbor of St Kilda, Melbourne, there is a colony of about 1,400 fairy penguins, one of the smallest species. Volunteers watch over and protect the charismatic birds. There are two penguins had just lost their mates and that they seemed to be comforting each other. The incredible image was captured in Melbourne, Australia, by German photographer Tobias Baumgaertne. The photo, which was actually taken in 2019, recently won the Community Choice award in Oceanographic magazine’s Ocean Photograph Awards.
“A volunteer came up and told me that the target was an older female who had lost her partner and, apparently, the male to her left had also lost her” Baumgaertner wrote in an Instagram post.
“Since then they meet regularly comforting each other and standing together for hours watching the dancing lights of the nearby city,” Baumgaertner wrote on Instagram. “I spend 3 full nights with this penguin colony until I was able to get this picture. Between not being able or allowed to use any lights and the tiny penguins continuously moving, rubbing their flippers on each other’s backs and cleaning one another, it was really hard to get a sh.ot but i got lucky during one beautiful moment.”
“The way that these two lovebirds were caring for one another stood out from the entire colony,” he wrote in another Instagram post. “While all the other penguins were sleeping or running around, those two seemed to just stand there and enjoy every second they had together, holding each other in their flippers and talking about penguin stuff.” Like many of the nature photographs, Tobias Baumgaertne had to wait three days to be able to photograph the emotional moment.
Baumgaertner also shared a video of the penguins, showing how close they were. However, he also shared a caveat about anthropomorphizing animals too much.
“I am a dreamer,” he wrote. “I believe that it is important to have dreams as they make life worth living and give love meaning. I previously shared these penguin images to spread love because that, I believed, is what the world needed most right now. It was never intended to be scientifically accurate as it was quite obviously romanticized by adding my personal feelings of being separated from and longing for the one I can’t live without. I wrote these words from the bottom of my heart and never expected so many people to connect with them.
Like with anything else in life too much of one thing has the potential to become dangerous and while we don’t know what goes on in these little penguins I’ve been advised by the scientific community that anthropomorphizing animals can have a negative influence on them as it “can… lead to inappropriate behaviors towards wild animals”. This is especially the case for animals living in such close proximity to the city as they are already dealing with various challenges. I have further been advised that these two could be related, …the exact relation of these two is at this point probably hard to figure out but I am happy to hear that if they are not friends then they might at least be family.
Either way I believe that this was a truly beautiful and magical moment that spread so much love around the world. I also believe that humans protect what they can connect with and it acts as a reminder that we share this beautiful world with many other beings which come in various shapes and sizes, degrees of fluffiness and colors as well as with specific needs crucial for their survival. It presents us with just one of many reasons why we should protect the ones with no voice to stand up for themselves and most importantly it has shown us that if we care and come together we could change the world…”