Penguins and monkeys and ballerinas... oh my!

'Still Life' at the Penguin Café (1988) is a one-act ballet by David Bintley focussing on the plight of endangered animals around the world.  No performances of this ballet are currently available, but you can find more information about some of the animals featured by scrolling down. 


Manchester Evening News Award 1988

Olivier Award nomination 1988

International Defence of Nature Award 1993


The Great Auk penguin

Starting off the ballet, The Great Auk is sadly extinct and has been so since the mid-19th century. It was the only modern species in the genus  Pinguinus.  The great auk was around 75 to 85 centimetres tall and weighed around 11lb. It had a black back and a white belly much like penguins we see now though its black beak was heavy and hooked, with grooves on its surface. During summer, great auk plumage showed a white patch over each eye whilst during winter, the developed a white band stretching between the eyes. A flightless bird, the great auk was a powerful swimmer, a trait that it used in hunting. Although agile in the water, it was clumsy on land. Much like penguins we study now, great auk pairs mated for life, nested in extremely dense and social colonies.

The great auk was hunted to extinction for its feathers, meat and eggs.

Texas Kangaroo Rat

The Texas Kangaroo Rat takes its name from a tendency to hop around on its hind legs like a tiny kangaroo! Usually a tiny 12cm in length, the tail of this rat makes up almost two thirds of its length and acts as a balance when jumping. The rats are nocturnal and won't even leave their burrows during full moons for fear of hunters.  The rat lives in brush, particularly around Texas, and as buildings have seen large areas of brush being cleared away, the rats habitat is now drastically threatened. 

The species is listed as threatened by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and the IUCN lists the species as vulnerable.

Southern Cape Zebra

The smallest of all existing zebra species and also the most geographically restricted, the cape mountain zebra is boldly striped in black and white and no two individuals look alike. Adult zebras have a body length of around 2.2m and typically weigh between 240 and 370kg. The females are typically larger than the males. 

Due to excessive and prolonged hunting and habitat destruction in South Africa, populations of Cape mountain zebra have declined greatly during the last 300 years.

Although once nearly driven to extinction, the population has now been increased by several conservation methods, but is still classified as Vulnerable by the IUCN

Woolly Spider Monkey

The Southern Muriqui (as it is also known) is the largest New World primate and has thick, fleecy fur, which is grey or yellow-brown in colour. The Southern Muriqui has a black face mottled with pink.

They have long limbs and prehensile tails, enabling them to be particularly agile amongst the trees. There is a bare patch of skin on the underside of the tip of the tail that acts as a gripping pad to aid their stability and they have evolved hook-like hands, lacking opposable thumbs, for quick and efficient travel between trees.

Following widespread habitat destruction and hunting,the Southern Muriqui has been particularly affected by the devastating effects of habitat destruction; living in small isolated colonies. 

Muriquis are endangered with fewer than 1,500 individuals remaining. Captive breeding projects are in progress but have had little success.  

Find out more about Birmingham Wildlife Conservation Park's fantastic work around conservation by clicking here

Find out more about the wonderful work Dudley Zoo does to try and conserve and protect by clicking here

Pic Monkey Collage