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December 15, 2005

Overweight penguins

When I was a little kid, I had a stuffed penguin named Falvorite. Looks like "favorite" but there's an "L" in it. I don't remember that Falvorite was particularly overweight.

But it turns out that in the real world overweight penguins are widespread. (Ha!) At least in Japan.

TOKYO - It's wintertime and the king penguins at a zoo in northern Japan are putting on weight. But the keepers there have a solution: exercise.

Authorities at Asahiyama Zoo are taking the penguins on 500-yard walks on the snowy grounds twice a day, said zoo spokesman Tetsuo Yamazaki.

"Just like in humans ... the fat accumulates during the winter months, and the blood-sugar level rises," Yamazaki explained from the zoo, 570 miles northwest of Tokyo.

The zoo's 15 king penguins aren't exactly obese. Penguin winter weight varies from 33 pounds to 40 pounds, said zoo official Kazunobu Maru. So far, only one of the flock is 40 pounds, he said.

The reason for weight gain is natural, zoo officials say.

"In order to withstand the cold, the penguins have a habit of standing very still during winter months," Yamazaki said, while in the summer they can walk around and swim as much as they want.
But the "eccentric" president of Turkmenistan has a better solution than exercise: Send the penguins to the desert.
President Saparmurat Niyazov has issued decrees in the past banning recorded music and men with long hair.

Now, he is spending £10 million on the construction of the zoo in the Karakorum desert - where temperatures reach up to 40 degrees Celsius.

But Niyazov has decreed the zoo must have penguins because he believes the birds need to be saved from starvation caused by global warming.
Starving caused by global warming? Couldn't be any hotter in Antarctica than in the Karakorum desert.