I always love finding alien coins in my change and this week’s discovery seems particularly fitting – a shiny 5p piece from the Falkland Islands, far away in the South Atlantic. I say fitting, because we are coming up to the 30th anniversary of the Falklands War between Britain and Argentina.
But this is not a political post, nor is it a tribute to those 255 British and 649 Argentine soldiers, sailors and airmen and three civilian Falklanders who sadly died in that short conflict.
This is just about Falkland Island coins and the wildlife depicted on them.
That 5p coin features a Black-browed Albatross or “mollyhawk”, Latin name Thalassarche melanophrys. The Falkland Islands hold about 400,000 of these birds – about two-thirds of the world’s population. Find out more on this conservation website.
I see from Wikipedia that most of the Falkland Islands’ coins feature local species. So here they are…
The Gentoo Penguin appears on the 1p coin. Its Latin name is Pygoscelis papua and The Falkland Islands hold the largest breeding population in the world, more than 120,000 pairs. Find out more on this conservation website.
Then the 2p coin shows the Upland Goose – the race found in the Falklands, Chloephaga picta leucoptera, is unique and growing apart genetically from its continental cousin, the Magellan Goose. The Falkland birds – of which there are maybe 150,000 breeding pairs – are much tamer. Read more on this conservation page.
Then there are the 10p and 20p coins…
The Falklands population of Southern Sealions, Otaria flavescens, declined by 97% – from an estimated 80,000 pups in 1938 to just 2,000 pups in 1995. For more about conservation efforts, see this page.
The 20p coin shows a sheep. Sheep farming has been big in the economy of the island since the late 19th century. Wikipedia has a piece on the economy of the Falklands.
The base flock consists of Corriedale and Polwarth breeds with Dohne Merino, South African Meat Merinos, Afrinos and other breeds mixed in there somewhere.
then there are the 50p and £1 coins…
The 50p coin bears an interesting creature – the Warrah or Falkland Islands Wolf, Latin name Dusicyon australis.
This was the only native mammal in the islands until people arrived, maybe in the 16th century. This animal became extinct in 1876, the first known canid to have disappeared in historical times. Although a member of the dog/wolf/fox/jackal/coyote family, it seems it has no close living relatives and was the last of its genus.
A distant relative, the Culpeo, Lycalopex culpaeus, sometimes known as the Culpeo Zorro, Andean fox or Andean wolf has been introduced to the islands in recent times.
The £1 coin simply shows the Falkland Islands’ coat of arms, granted in 1948. It shows a sheep on top of some tussock grass, on top of a ship called the Desire, on which sea-captain John Davis arrived in the islands in 1592. The motto “Desire the right” also refers to the ship’s name.
Then there’s the £2 coin. I love these pieces, a silver disc surrounded by a gold ring, just like we have in the UK, apart from the design.
So there you go. Little did I think I would be writing about the wildlife of the Falklands this week. Thanks to the albatross in my pocket for teaching me something new…