In 1998, a team of researchers made the three-and-a-half day trek to the isolated Antipodes Islands in the South Pacific to study one of its few residents: the enigmatic and endangered erect-crested penguin. The results of their research were published on Wednesday in the journal PLOS ONE, chronicling the birds’ demographics and unique parenting style — including neglecting, and in some cases killing, potential chicks. … The smaller eggs often were not incubated by their parents, and most ended up rolling out of the nest or accidentally getting smashed. … Occasionally, the penguins seemed to deliberately shove the tiny eggs out of their bare, rocky nests to their doom. – “Why Some Penguins Give Up on Half of Their Unhatched Eggs,” New York Times, October 12, 2022; author: Darren Incorvaia.
Pauline Penguin and her husband Parcus, erect-crested penguins, who have been residents of the Dallas Zoo for the past five years, were arrested yesterday by deputies from the Dallas police department. Pauline and Parcus were charged with violating the newly enacted state law, SB 8, the Texas Heartbeat Act, which bans all forms of abortion in Texas. No exceptions allowed, other than if the life of the would-be mother is at risk.
According to officials from the zoo, Pauline recently laid two eggs in her arctic-simulated environment. One of the eggs rolled out of the nest and was “accidentally” smashed by Pauline’s husband, Parcus Penguin. Or so that was what Parcus and Pauline told zoo authorities last month when they were questioned about this disturbing event. According to Mr. D. Smith, zoo superintendent in charge of all sub-arctic environments and animals, zoo officials sat down with Pauline and Parcus to discuss the plight of the ill-fated egg and offer constructive suggestions to prevent another egg from rolling out of their nest. Mr. Smith said that while zoo officials believed Pauline’s story that the egg spontaneously rolled out of the nest, many were skeptical of Parcus’s story that he had “accidentally” crushed the egg.
But zoo officials gave Pauline and Parcus the benefit of the doubt because of their tenure at the zoo and their enduring monogamous relationship. Some questioned the integrity of communications between zoo officials and the penguins. While the zoo has several staff members fluent in pidgin English, no staff members spoke penguin English, so communication was iffy at best.
Then last week the blockbuster New York Times article was published exposing the true motivation of Pauline and Parcus’s behavior. Zoo authorities went back to look at the video. Clearly captured on video was Pauline literally shoving the diminutive egg out of the nest with her flippers. Gravity had little to do with the egg’s abrupt exit from its familial home. After the egg stopped rolling, Parcus was observed enigmatically bouncing on the egg until it met its demise. This was no “accident.”
Mr. Smith said that zoo officials were deeply troubled by Pauline and Parcus’s abusive treatment of the egg. They felt that such a callous display could have an unsettling impact on children and that it was not appropriate in a family setting. Mr. Smith said everyone knows that a trip to the zoo often is a proxy for sex education, and that parents frequently take their kids to the zoo around the time questions about the birds and the bees arise. To witness Pauline and Parcus’s ritualistic killing of an embryo is intolerable. Mr. Smith said, “We don’t want to make a trip to the zoo a gateway trip to an abortion clinic.” Further, Mr. Smith went on to explain how the destruction of a penguin embryo deprives the zoo of valuable data. He explained, “Assume the aborted penguin chick was a boy with a serious sickness. Then let’s say some other penguin chick comes down with a disease. We will never know if the sick chick had Parcus’ son’s disease.”
As expected, animal rights activists rallied to defend Pauline and Parcus and set up a GoFundMe page to help finance the cost of their legal defense. According to their lawyers, Mr. and Mrs. Penguin did not possess the mens rea, or guilty mind, required to convict someone of a crime. Behind closed doors, there were hushed discussions about whether a penguin has any mind at all, and whether that would explain why discussions with Pauline and Parcus are so one-sided, though they nod at appropriate moments. Their lawyers argued that Pauline and Parcus were merely doing what the dna of erect-crested penguins has programmed them to do for thousands of years. Already this is developing into an epic battle of mother nature versus founding fathers.
After being booked at the courthouse, Pauline and Parcus returned to the zoo. Thanks to their GoFundMe campaign, they were able to post bail; however each agreed to wear a GPS bracelet in order to reduce the risk of flight. As a precautionary measure, presiding Judge R. Haley imposed a cease and desist order upon the couple, preventing them from engaging in further conjugal activity. Mr. Smith thought this was a good idea, but admitted it may be problematic to enforce, as it is difficult to determine when penguins cross the line from reciprocal preening to unabashed diddling. However all agreed that such an injunction is in the best interests of the chastised couple. Judge Haley warned the couple that if they continue to snuff out the lights of future unborn chicks, they could be charged with violating Texas’ Three Strike Law. The consequences of which would transport the repeat offenders from the cozy cold faux tundra of the zoo to life behind bars in jail.
The Texas Heartbeat Act authorizes payment of a bounty of up to $10,000 to any person who informs authorities about an abortion. Several unnamed zoo officials have applied for payment under this provision of the law. According to local officials, if Pauline and Parcus are found guilty of violating SB 8, those reporting zoo employees should receive a nice bounty just in time for Christmas.
Copyright 2022, Peter Kelman, Esq.
All rights reserved.