Hello Pax, I am one of your moms and I’m looking forward to getting to know you. Can you tell me a little bit about yourself?
I am an African Penguin and proud to say it. There are not very many of us so I am rather special. Some people refer to my clan as jackass penguins but I think that is a bit rude, other names we have are Blackfoot penguins, which is OK as our feet are black, but it’s boring and does not sound special at all.
If I had to write out my whole name it would be Pax Spheniscus demersus, but you can just call me Pax which means Peace. I like that name and I think it suits me. It’s quite feminine and I am a girl who likes to take care of her feathers and look her best at all times. I can’t decide if I should get an eye patch or not, what do you think? I think it would look really cool and edgy on a guy, but I am not sure if it would fit my image. Unless you get sparkly ones, in pink maybe, or not, whatever….
I am two and a half years old, which for you is very little but I am actually almost a teenager and very mature for my age. After all the things that have happened to me I had to grow up fast, it was tough.
You do seem very mature and confident Pax. Do you mind talking about what happened to you? I would like to hear your story.
I don’t remember much as I was very little when I came to live at SAMREC. I do remember my mom, dad and brother, we were a close family but life was not easy in the ocean. That day on the beach I am not sure how I ended up there alone. I was so tired, cold and hungry and my eye was hurting, and I just wanted my mom or my dad but they were not there.
I was very thin and undernourished but not ready to give up. I started walking away from the beach, using every last bit of physical strength I had, and a large dose of mental toughness, survival instinct or whatever you want to call it. Then a man picked me up near the highway and I think I passed out. The next thing I remember is being warm, with a full tummy, my eye felt a bit better, but my heart was broken as I knew I would never see my family again. I don’t want to talk about it anymore OK.
That’s fine Pax, you are a very brave girl, a real survivor. So tell me about your new life.
Describe a day in the life of Pax.
I wake up and just chill until breakfast time. At about 8am we have to eat and it is done individually by hand. They hide Vitamins in the fish and think we don’t know, but I eat it anyway because you can’t really taste it and the vitamins make me look good and healthy. Then I can do whatever I like. I power walk on the grass, then I swim for a while, both are very good for staying fit and toned. Sometimes I find my girlfriends and we sit and chat, but I always keep my one eye out on what is happening in the Centre. If a group of visitors arrive, I head back to the pool and swim around right up near the glass. Some say I am showing off, but actually I am just letting them see what a good looking penguin looks like. Anyway, if you’ve got it, flaunt it, right?
After that I like a snooze in the sun, but I usually go and find my boyfriend first. His name is Kuli and he is so cute. We are like soul mates, he loves me because I am hot, but he gets me. He also only has one eye, so he doesn’t make it into a big deal. He would look seriously cool with a black eye patch. I think Linda at SAMREC thinks we are too young and does not really approve of us going off together somewhere quiet, but maybe she has forgotten what it is like to be in love. Kuli is by far the coolest dude here and he is mine forever.
After a rest and maybe a bit of a snog with Kuli, I walk and swim around the whole place, just checking to see what is going on. I have my finger on the pulse of this place. If new volunteers arrive I go and see them, or else my afternoon is spent checking out visitors, posing for photo shoots and stuff. I don’t do selfies just in case you were wondering.
Where do you see yourself in the next two years?
Due to our eye injuries Kuli and I will be here forever. I can’t be released because I would be too vulnerable. I might be swimming along with my good eye on a sardine for lunch and not notice a shark or a seal on my blindside, and it could have me for lunch. I am a fast swimmer and have a few ninja moves, but I would not be able to fight off a hungry shark, and those guys are like always hungry. I wonder why they aren’t fat?
Now that I have been adopted by media people, I have changed my name from Wanda to Pax, and I see myself doing more interviews, eventually moving into TV hopefully.
Kuli and I may or may not have kids, but not yet. We will stay here and do our bit raising awareness for SAMREC, making the most of our life here, and of course working out, staying fit and healthy for the cameras.
What do you miss about the ocean and your old life?
Not much, I am very happy here, it’s a good life. The only thing I miss a little bit is space. You should have seen my parents in the water. Diving, gliding, they were sleek and beautiful and fast. Well maybe only on the days when they had had enough to eat. Most days they were hungry so did not have too much energy for swimming just for the fun of it. My brother and I loved watching the bigger penguins playing in the waves, it looked like so much fun, but I will never experience that. We were still little and our feathers were not waterproof yet so we had to stay on the land.
I miss exploring a bit. Here I know every inch on my home, there are no surprises. I loved walking around not knowing what was over the next dune or under a distant bush. Not all surprises were good though, but here I am always safe, and life is not boring as we get visitors all the time and new residents who obviously I have to meet and tell them how everything works here. I also have to tell the new females to stay away from Kuli, he’s mine but all the new girls give him the eye. Luckily he only has one eye for me.
What do you love the most about your new home?
I love feeding time. I saw how my mom and dad struggled to feed me and my brother.
I am also glad that there is no danger here so I can swim and play without worrying.
Pax, you are amazing, any final words to share?
If you are near Port Elizabeth, please come and visit. I hate being bored and new faces make my day. At SAMREC you will learn things that could make you change your habits in a way that will be good for my cousins and friends still out there in the ocean. I worry about them.
If you are anywhere near a beach, please help with beach clean- ups. The plastic and pollution in the oceans is getting worse all the time, and it is a huge threat to penguins, sea birds and all marine creatures.
Even if you are just walking on the beach, please pick up old fishing line, plastic bottles and packets and any other rubbish that you see lying around. By doing this you could be saving a life.
If you are not near Port Elizabeth please consider adopting a penguin. As the best one, I am taken, but there are 33 of us here and we all have our stories and our charms. Click here to adopt or contribute some money for fish.
Oh, just asking, but it would be cool if one of my parents could get me my own page on FaceBook. I am totally old enough and it is a good move for me career wise, and I could share stories and information so that more people can learn how to respect and protect the ocean.
For more information on Pax and SAMREC read the great stories by Anje of Going Somewhere Slowly.
Thanks to Anje Rautenbach for making this adoption happen.
Images courtesy of Anje Rautenbach and her mom, Mrs. Rautenbach.