A penguin almost killed me once.
OK, that's a slight exaggeration.
OK, calling it a slight exaggeration is a massive understatement.
I was on the rear deck of a ship in the Southern Ocean and was helping to tie down the vessel's helicopter in anticipation of some incoming inclement weather. The ship was already starting to roll a little, and just as it was rocking in my direction, an ice floe came into view with a solitary Adelie penguin perched upon it.
WATCH: Animal Planet L!VE's Penguin Cam
"Look!" exclaimed the person next to me. "A penguin!" At which moment she involuntarily let go of the strap she was holding on to, and the helicopter started to slide ominously toward the edge, with me in its path.
The penguin shook itself in a cute penguin-y kind of way. I squawked in a mildly fearful kind of way; within a couple of seconds normal service had been resumed, the helicopter had been secured and the penguin had continued to drift away to tend to its penguin business.
OK, so I way oversold the whole penguin-killing-me thing. But there are only so many ways to grab a reader's attention, and that one seemed a sure bet because if there's one thing everyone knows penguins don't do, it's kill people. (Well, apart from this one.) They swim, they eat fish and krill, and, in the case of male emperor penguins, they look after the young for weeks on end while Mom is out catching food. Plus, of course, they have this habit of walking bipedally and lugubriously, which makes it really hard not to be anthropomorphic when looking at them. Perhaps that's why everybody loves penguins. (Well, apart from this guy.) ‘March of the Penguins‘ won an Academy Award. Britons were recently glued to their TVs, watching a BBC up-close-and-personal penguin documentary series called ‘Spy in the Huddle.' Mr. Popper liked penguins so much he wound up with 10 of them. Then of course there's Happy Feet. And Opus. And Pingu.