By Josh Saunders
A wildlife photographer has captured penguin chicks fighting over a camera bag and pecking at expensive camera lenses.
Alex Macipe, 49, witnessed the fluffy juveniles peck, prod and peruse through his belongings, at Volunteer Point, in the Falkland Islands.
The king penguin chicks appeared desperate to be in the limelight as they inquisitively stared deep into the camera equipment and lenses.
The conservationist and writer from Buenos Aires, Argentina, was surprised when the huddle swarmed around him, shortly after placing his bag down.
From there the chicks fought over who would have the prized position perching atop of the warm and soft case, before becoming distracted and hopping off.
Recording on his GoPro, Alex admits he was a little concerned for his expensive equipment but didn’t want to risk ruining the encounter by moving.
He claims when he needed to leave the birds then tried to attack him, wanting to keep the carrier all to themselves and now has vowed never to wash it.
Alex said: “The rules in the island require a minimum distance between people and the penguins, you cannot go past that but if the chicks come up to you, you can take advantage of the situation.
“I was taking pictures when they came up to see what my backpack was, they then started to peck it with their beaks.
“I was a bit afraid as I have expensive camera lenses and they were pecking my full equipment.
“If I was to move and take one step maybe the chicks would have left.
“I believe they liked the material of the bag because it’s warmer and is a soft material.
“They were investigating the lenses, then were pecking at different parks of the zipper and went in all the different parts of my backpack, it was very funny.
“Towards the end the two penguins were fighting as they both wanted to be on top of the backpack.
“When we had to go back onboard the ship again, I was trying to retrieve my backpack and they started to fight me because they didn’t want to leave it.
“I have promised myself that I will never clean my backpack and it still has marks from where the penguins were stepping.
“It’s not normal to see king penguins, let alone have them going through and testing all of your backpack.”
His encounter with the king penguins has made him even more determined to try to protect and educate others about the species through his photo-journalism.
Alex said: “You can interact with them even though we are different animals.
“It’s often difficult to find feelings through the eyes of a bird, opposed to a mammal, cat or dog.
“But you see these birds look at you, what you are doing and wanting to check your shoes or cameras or whatever else.
“As an animal and nature lover you have to take advantage of the privilege of being there.
“For me it’s made me want to promote their lives, colonies and species in order for them to be respected around the world and for more people to know about king penguins.
“I wish luck to those young chicks, I hope they reach adulthood, are able to reproduce for their species, to be happy and not injured.”
Falklands Conservation estimate there are 1,500 breeding king penguins and up to 700 chicks are born every year on the Islands, mainly located at Volunteer Point.
Visiting the Falklands in November last year, Alex relished his encounters with the penguins and other wildlife, while respecting the boundaries set for their survival.
He said: “Falklands Conservation is a non-governmental association and foundation taking care of the ecological practices within the Falkland Islands.
“These penguins are surrounded by people, so they can come and interact with humans, in a place where humans will never hurt them.
“They often just stare at you and they want to see what is going on so will come up next to you, they are very friendly.”
Alex headed on a round-trip of the archipelago organised by Marcelo Gurruchaga, sampling much of wildlife on offer.
He plans to return to the Falkland Islands, known in Argentina as Islas Malvinas, to take even more photographs.
From the shots, he hopes will educate people about the archipelago and the thriving wildlife within the islands, including seals, sealions, whales, albatross and other rare bird species.
Alex said: “It’s a sad place, but a place with a lot of life on the flip side of the coin.
“The wildlife is very well maintained and in general this place is very fantastic.
“I love nature and enjoy taking pictures of animals, so when you go to a place that is difficult to reach due to the weather conditions it’s a challenge to get good pictures.
“I hope to show people what the place looks like, it’s challenging but to interact with that specific place is incredible.
“At times you may only eat one sandwich during the whole day, because you don’t want to waste time.
“Behind each picture is a lot of work to reach the place and money that a photographer has to invest.
“They have to be clever to take advantage of the conditions and be able to enjoy and take advantage of every second.”