It is a continent on the south pole of our planet, composed of a polar desert, a coast of sea ice that forms and melts depending on the weather, and the southern ocean around them. Antarctica is an amazing place, rich of life and home to some species that can’t be found anywhere else in the world!
But 40 years ago that was not considered important yet: instead, there were big interests to exploit Antarctic mineral and gas resources. And that’s when ASOC’s story begins.
Mr James Barnes, an environmental lawyer, knew that if only a few people made the decisions on Antarctic Management, it was easy for them to get away with what they wanted; so he spread the word among environmental organizations and other countries about the risks Antarctica was facing. When the public was informed, it put so much pressure on their governments that they dropped their plans to exploit Antarctica and started thinking about protecting it.
Since then, ASOC has been part of the process: representing the voice of environmental protection on the continent. ASOC‘s aim is now to create a network of marine protected areas, minimize pollution from vessels, and mitigate the effects of Climate Change in Antarctica.
How? First of all, by studying the delicate balances of this amazing continent, and by discovering how the living organisms interact with their habitats, the climate, and human activities. Thanks to this knowledge, decisions about Antarctica can be made in the interest of the local animals and habitats, and not for economic or exploitation interests.
ASOC‘s dream is to see one day Antarctica become the first World Natural Park!
greg, THE EMPEROR PENGUIN
ASOC‘s studies, research and field activities inspired the story of Greg, the emperor penguin protagonist of The 2021 Christmas EcoAdventures, the Advent Calendar that collects 24 stories and creative activities for young EcoExplorers.
The Christmas EcoAdventures are stories to share. Every day, from the 1st to 24th December, you will find a story and an activity to complete together.
This EcoAdventure was created so that this special time becomes a journey to the four corners of the world discovering curious, rare or endangered animals. You are never too young to take care of our environment and communities!
The animals’ stories, told with fur, feathers, scales or fins and a pinch of imagination, are an invitation to discover their characteristics, lifestyle, and the daily challenges they face to survive threats posed by man and pollution.
Christmas is only one day a year, but taking care of the Earth should be a daily act.
The activities allow you to experience a sustainable and creative activity each day. You will then become a
First Class EcoElf.
Greg’s story is the tale of a young penguin who is engaged in the hatching of eggs and who will soon become a dad. Careful to keep the egg resting between its paws warm, Greg, imagine what his life will be like when the egg hatches. He and his partner, Donna, will have to take turns to go and get food along a very long stretch of coast for weeks.
At the very thought he already has aching feet and then he would very much like to be able to have, at least for once, a nice family lunch all together.
He needs the help of an EcoElf!
FIND AOUT MORE ABOUT THE EMPEROR PENGUIN
What is it like to live in Antarctica? The very center of the continent is a polar desert, and here life is well hidden: the only local land animal is a small insect called the Antarctic midge, together with some plants and lichens. But on the coasts, where the land meets the Southern Ocean, we find the sea ice: here is where most of Antarctic life happens. And since animals need to feed, and there is not much food to be found on land, it is the sea who offers it!
Under the sea ice, tiny tiny marine organisms called phytoplankton thrive, and are eaten by bigger (but still small!) organisms like zooplankton and krill. Krill then provides energy and nutrients to all the seals, penguins, whales and other marine creatures inhabiting Antarctica and the surrounding ocean.
So let’s picture it: a blue ocean breaking into white-azure surfaces of ice, icebergs, and white mountains far away. If you observe carefully, you’ll see some black and white creatures darting out of the water, up onto the sea ice…Can you guess who they are?
It’s the Emperor penguins! Let’s take a good look. They are big, in fact they are the biggest of all 18 penguin species and can weigh up to 40 kg. They are birds, but instead of wings, they have a nice pair of flippers that they use to propel themselves underwater: they are agile swimmers and pretty good divers! In the ocean they find all their favorite foods: fish,squid, and krill.
Their body is black on the back, white on the belly and their face and beak are black, with a tint of orange and yellow behind the cheeks. They are covered in feathers, but they grow so close together that they look like scales! These feathers protect them from strong Antarctic winds -sometimes as fast as 110 km/h- and from the freezing cold. Another smart solution that these animals use to survive in the Antarctic temperatures is huddling: it’s like a giant group hug! Emperor penguins are very social creatures and not at all territorial and can create very large colonies, of even tens of thousands.
In the southern hemisphere, winter season starts in May. At this time the whole colony is reunited and it is time for the pairs to find each other after months apart. How? Using their special song! Emperor penguins can tell their partner’s call apart from all the others, and follow its sound through the crowd until they find their mates. The female will lay one egg and leave: it’s up to dad to take care of it during the cold winter months, while mom penguin will go back to the sea, to feed. At this point, the colony becomes quieter and smaller.
It is now July, the eggs are starting to hatch, and the penguin moms are coming back from the coast. It is an exciting time and sometimes it is hard for the dads to leave the chicks, but they really need to get food now! From now on, the parents take turns, taking care of the chicks and going to the ocean to feed, until the little ones are ready to stay on their own (forming their own little huddles) and then start growing their own thick black feathers. When the molt is complete they’ll be able to feed in the ocean on their own, and become independent.
Emperor penguins rely on the sea ice: this environment is fundamental for them to feed, socialize and especially raise their chicks. But sea ice is dependent on the weather, and as the climate changes this ecosystem is changing too; this is probably why many breeding sites are being abandoned by colonies nowadays. In fact, if there is too much sea ice, penguin parents may have to travel too long distances to arrive to the ocean and find food; but if there’s too little, it may become unsafe for the eggs and the chicks, as predators will be closer by.
Can you guess how we know all this? It is not easy to track emperor penguins, because colonies move and don’t always come back to the same places…so we look for what they leave behind: over a few months a colony can cover an area of several square kilometers with guano -also known as penguin poop! Or we can also use satellite images, that help us localize the colonies from space…and are far less smelly.
learn to care
and choose to colour the world
with more smiles and kindness
The idea of the Christmas EcoAdventures was born to create a time for sharing during the days leading up to Christmas; a time to read and create but most of all to enjoy being together.
The characters, stories and activities that give life to the EcoADVENTures are an invitation to reconnect, to learn to care, and choose to colour the world with more smiles and more kindness.
We hope that this book will encourage empathy, respect and help children to make informed choices, embrace experiences and cultivate their dreams and ambitions. We hope that they will learn to respect differences, the environment that surrounds them and the community in which they live. We would love our book to help you experience Christmas in a unique, thought provoking and sincere way.
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