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What Penguins Can Teach Us About Love

The idea of a “perfect” life for humans often consists of getting married, and having children.  Marriage in the United States is a very common practice; but while millions of people get married, studies show that only half of those marriages will last.  On the other hand, let’s consider animals, and there’s a lot we can learn from certain species.

One of the most loyal animals are penguins.  Perhaps you saw the 2005 movie “March of  Penguins,” and if you did, you know that Emperor penguins live harmoniously in large groups, called “colonies”– some can exceed 10,000. By living in these giant groups of friends, penguins always have another penguin to help them, or to watch their back. (On the other hand, humans sometimes don’t want to share; and they sometimes don’t want to look out for the well-being of others.)  Thousands of penguins of the same species can co-exist and all benefit from each other. (Contrast that with humans, who often lack the ability to trust someone they see walking down the street).

Of course, it is unfair to compare the two species, because humans are more intelligent and advanced in many ways, while animals do certain things based on instinct.  But we could still ask:  if humans are such intelligent creatures, why is it so difficult for them to get along or help each other?  Penguins rarely argue or threaten others in their colony.  In fact, they don’t seem to mind cooperating, since another benefit of living in penguin colonies is warmth during extreme Arctic winter conditions.  Penguins huddle together in a giant cuddle session, and they tough out the storms together. (Humans, however, need to spend money on gas or oil to heat their luxurious homes. Usually, humans are unaware of how these necessary products impact the environment, nor do they think about the wars that have been fought over oil and gas.)

I understand that human life is much more complicated than the life of the average penguin, but I still believe people can learn from these amazing creatures.  Not only do penguins know how to share platonic love with their fellow penguins, but they have some expertise in romantic love as well. The gentoo species of penguin is incredibly knowledgeable in winning the heart of another penguin. The male penguins search the rocky shores for the most beautiful and smooth pebble to bring back to the female they are trying to woo.  In the penguin world, once a match is made between two love birds, they tend to stay loyal for life.  The pair also helps to raise their baby chicks (if you saw “March of the Penguins,” you know the male penguins are very willing to help, and they don’t expect the female to do it all).

Penguins are not the only species that practices monogamy.  Swans are another kind of bird that is commonly depicted in pairs, because of their tendency to mate for life. The main reason they do this is to minimize their time finding a partner every mating season, and it maximizes their time trying to reproduce. Having parents who work together to care for and protect the young chicks once they hatch makes survival rates increase. (In the human world, babies without a mother or father can survive just fine, but in some single-parent homes, the child’s quality of life can to be lacking. There are also some studies that show divorce can be very traumatic for children.  With such a high divorce rate these days, it does not seem that humans put as much effort into monogamy as penguins and swans do.)

Of course, no human being would want to be a penguin or a swan, but the way these animals collaborate and care for others of their species is something worth emulating.  Humans can benefit from helping their neighbors or friends, especially during difficult times; by helping others, there is an unspoken agreement that someday they will be there to help you.  This is something that penguins understand, and by establishing strong connections, it provides a safe and comforting environment for everyone involved.  So live your human life, but love like a penguin!

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