Penguins and People

The history of a beleaguered bird

A labour of love from journalist Marcel Haenen, 'Penguins and People' takes the reader on a gripping expedition into the very fabric of the penguin’s existence. He examines our relationship with the bird, from early encounters with navigators to captive penguins as crowd-pullers at zoos, from silver screen stardom ('Happy Feet', 'March of the Penguins') to penguin tourism and its current protected status.

Original title
Pinguïns en de mensen. Geschiedenis van een belaagde vogel
Marcel Haenen

There are eighteen species of penguins on earth, all of them in the southern hemisphere. In 1497, Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama documented his encounter with these peculiar birds: ‘resembling ducks in size’, they could be ‘clubbed to death quite easily’ and ‘brayed like donkeys’, he wrote. Since this first reported encounter penguins have suffered much harassment from humans.

The handsomest bird on the planet faces a serious threat of extinction due to our consumption of its meat and eggs, extraction of its oils, overfishing, the destruction of habitat, pollution and warming of the ocean. Following the extinction of the dodo in the seventeenth century and the great auk in the nineteenth century, an iconic walking bird – whose lineage spans over sixty million years – is once again teetering on the brink.

Haenen’s global odyssey exposes the urgent need to address habitat colonisation, ocean pollution, and overfishing. The narrative not only celebrates the charm of penguins but also underscores the pressing need for conservation in the face of impending doom.

  • A journey from New Zealand to Patagonia, Japan to Antarctica, Cape Town to Boston monitoring this loveable, iconic bird

  • The first comprehensive penguin survey in book form of its kind

  • Penguins are 60 million years old and in 60 years they will be largely extinct

  • Unique photo material from penguin watchers and specialists all over the world

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Martijn Prins
Sample translation available

Haenen’s voice is infectiously cheerful, calm, and warm. His book serves as a declaration of love, with a mournful tinge. Shamelessly tapping into our collective affection for penguins, he weaves a confrontational narrative about the state of our world: shrinking biodiversity, mass tourism, pollution, and overfishing.

De Standaard

A book of profound beauty, movingly written, delightful, hilarious, and historically fascinating.

De Tijd
Marcel Haenen
Marcel Haenen (b. 1960) has been a reporter for the NRC newspaper since 1984, and is its ‘penguin editor’. He has written books on serious crime, such as The Dancer, and The IRT Swamp.
Part ofNon-Fiction
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