An endangered African penguin has been given the name Sechelt after a young Lower Mainland couple’s cartoon tribute to the District captured the affections of staff at the Vancouver Aquarium.
Diana Luong, 22, and her partner, 24-year-old Kennett Kwok, set out to craft an entry for the Sunshine Coast after it was announced this spring that a contest would name seven newly-adopted penguins after B.C. communities.
“We thought of Sechelt because of the wonderful experience we had there. It’s nice to get away from the city and just enjoy nature,” said Luong, a part-time graphic designer and university student who lives in Vancouver.
It began with a trip the couple made to the Coast last summer. On a mission to unwind while exploring Coastal parks and beaches, Luong said the two grew fond of the Coast’s natural scenery and friendly strangers.
Those experiences became the inspiration for Sechelt the Penguin, a digital cartoon the couple produced as both an entry in the contest and an item for their burgeoning design portfolios.
In the video, a cartoon penguin remarks about the friendliness of people in Sechelt, offering some reflections on ways a flightless bird might keep busy while visiting the Coast.
“Many people are unaware of how amazing and relaxing Sechelt and the Sunshine Coast is,” Luong added as one of the reasons she felt it was important to enter the contest, in addition to her love for penguins.
According to the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, African penguins have been undergoing a rapid population decline, possibly due to commercial fisheries and changes in prey populations.
Estimates from 1956-7 had the number of African penguins at 141,000. The birds are now believed to number just over half as many.
On the Sunshine Coast, one population figure that has attracted the attention of community groups has frequently been the number of youths like Luong and her partner.
Census 2011 figures released on May 29 showed the median age of residents in the Sunshine Coast Regional District had risen to 51.6. While in the City of Vancouver, people in their 20s accounted for over 17 per cent of the population, in the SCRD that number was just over seven per cent.
As a student with ambitions in a creative field, Luong said a life on the Sunshine Coast could appeal to her generation.
“Young and creative people would like living in this community as long as there are schools and jobs that allow them to thrive,” she explained.
“With a one-day visit to the Sunshine Coast, we saw how friendly the community is there, which is always very important when choosing a place to move to. I don’t think a lot of people know just how nice it is there and how close it is.”
More than 600 entries were received to name the seven penguins. The aquarium announced the winners on July 3. In addition to Sechelt, another six penguins were named Lillooet, Tofino, Hope, Steveston, Salt Spring and Nelson.
According to Clint Wright, general manager of Vancouver Aquarium, the panel of judges chose the names they felt had resonated most with staff and visitors to the facility.
Submissions were accepted in several forms including essays, poems and videos.