Once during a really adventurous hike to the True North, I was talking to an Inuit elder, and the subject went onto penguins of all things.
He was telling me about what we know as Emperor penguins. During the breeding season he said, after the eggs are laid, the mother leaves her egg with the father penguin, while she walks 50 or 60 miles in the arctic conditions, until she reaches open water, where she can dive in and start feeding.
That walk takes them 4 or 5 days, sometimes longer…many times the mothers do not make it to the sea, but perish on the way. But because they have used all their energy to produce their eggs, they have to leave and eat, otherwise die. During this time, the fathers incubate the eggs, standing in temperatures as low as they get in those conditions, -50C sometimes, sometimes lower.
And the fathers have to do this for at least 3 months, usually 4, until the mothers have had their feeds and are ready to return home in time to feed their already hatched chicks.
If the mothers don’t return by the time 3 or 4 months are up, the father will abandon his chick, walk the 70 miles to the water and feed, or otherwise die of starvation with his chick. Remember by this time, they have been without food for more than 4 months!
But in what can only be called a miracle of Nature, apparently, within the penguins throat, there are several creases, and within these creases a milky substance is secreted, which the father penguin regurgitates up and feeds it to the chick, sustaining it’s life for a while longer.
And as if by another miracle, the mothers somehow sense the urgency with which they have to be back to feed their chicks, and walk with speed to be with them. Unknown to them, some of their chicks will have died through lack of food and severe cold.
When the mothers return, their chicks are overjoyed, even though they have never set eyes upon them before. Now, the fathers walk away to the open water, again 70 or more miles away, to feed…again, some will not make it, dying through lack of food and cold. And yet again, when the fathers return, many of the chicks will have died, their mothers are inconsolable and their loss unimaginable….they squawk mournfully for days on end. Who, says the Inuit, who says that animals don’t have feelings?
My point about this whole story is theis…..if mankind keeps destroying the planet and it’s resources as he has been doing so far, what will become of these animals, whose lives already hinge on so uncertain, and so fragile an existence?