These Unbearably Cute Little Penguins Are About to Punch You in the Heart

These Unbearably Cute Little Penguins Are About to Punch You in the Heart
Meet The Penguins, then feel that hit to the heart. (Image: ABC TV)

How bloody cute are penguins? After Happy Feet tugged at our heartstrings and David Attenborough schooled us in all things flightless tiny birds, the ABC is coming in fresh with Meet The Penguins.

We just can’t get enough of penguin content, let’s be honest. Like this man taking his penguin for a bike ride, captured by Google Street View. But we’ve not done them any good — from hundreds of little blue penguins washing up dead in New Zealand, to the frightening prediction that emperor penguins could be extinct in our lifetimes, penguins overall deserve better from us humans.

And that’s where the ABC’s documentary Meet The Penguins comes in. Hosted by Dr Ann Jones, it follows the tiniest of all penguins, the little penguins (aka fairy penguins), on Phillip Island in Victoria where 32,000 of them live. These critters are so bloody cute I can’t even deal with it. Just look at the teaser and squeal with delight as they punch you in the heart.

But there are some shocking truths to come out of Meet The Penguins, as we watch these little guys and girls try to find their soul mate(s) and survive in the wild.

Little penguins are very horny

While the little penguins shack up together pretty young (they don’t have much time to waste, more on that later), they also get it on with up to five extra sexual partners a night. Unsurprisingly, their divorce rate is not great — it’s around 18-52 per cent depending on how good or bad they are as parents.

They’re small but mighty fierce

Because little penguins need to defend their territory — 32,000 on one island is a lot — they’re known to employ pecking, shoving and slapping with flippers to get their rivals to back off. They’re also top-notch predators, devouring fish, squid, krill, jellies and starfish, and eating a quarter of their body weight in food every day.

They basically have propellors on them

Not only can little penguins dive up to 72m in pursuit of food (hungry much?), they can reach speeds of up to 12km an hour, and travel more that 1,000km in their first year of life alone. Well, I sure feel lazy and slow.

The bebes don’t have much of a chance

Ready to have your heart shatter into a thousand pieces? As giddy as we get at the sight of those cute, fluffy baby penguins, only 20 per cent survive their first year. Once upon a time their greatest predators were fur seals, sea eagles, gulls, ravens and goannas, but these days cats, dogs and foxes, as well as us terrible humans with our climate change, habitat destruction, road kills and oil spills pose an even greater threat to their survival.

So catch them while you can. Meet The Penguins is on ABC TV and iview on Tuesday, June 28 at 8.30pm.