Thursday, November 10, 2011
Spending time around the Magellanic Penguins
Karen, an aviculturist at the Aquarium of the Pacific, could see the big smile on my face after spending time around the penguins in their behind-the-scenes area. She could tell that I was catching “Penguin Fever,” the happiness that’s caused by being around these wonderful critters and their playful antics.
To keep these black and white aquatic birds mentally stimulated, the staff is adding toys and other things to their pen for them to interact with. One of those “other things” was me. I spent part of my volunteer shift last Saturday sitting around the pool area of the pen allowing the penguins to check me out at their leisure. The ones that have been at the Aquarium the longest, known as the Brazilians, were the first to come by. These were the young Magellanic penguins rescued hundreds of miles from their traditional feeding grounds on the beaches of Brazil that found their way to the Aquarium of the Pacific. Number Seven and Number Four (the Brazilians do not have names yet) used their beaks to gently explore and check out my camera and boots. The Aquarium’s aviculturists are using volunteers and other staff to help desensitize them to humans and to stimulate the bird’s natural curiosity as they are undergoing treatment in Long Beach. In essence I was part of their entertainment for the day. It also allowed me to get the penguins used to my camera being around so I could start keeping a visual record of them.
I was pleasantly surprised to see a couple of the older penguins come over to me. These birds were part of another group of rescued penguins that came to the Aquarium from another Zoological facility some time after the Brazilians. These were older birds that were not quite used to us yet. One called “Noodles” was the first non-Brazilian to swim up to me. He was very interested in the waterproof and, hopefully, penguin proof “Tough” camera that I was using in the wet environment next to their pool. Using his beak he explored the casing and buttons of the camera.
This interaction caught the attention of another penguin known as “Whatever” who also came by to check me out. I can just imagine how this penguin got it’s name from the zoo that it came from.
- First keeper with clipboard: “What do you want to call this penguin?”
- Second keeper trying to keep track of and care for the numerous birds around them replies, “Whatever.”
The name is duly noted on the clipboard. I don’t know if that’s really how it got its name but it brings a smile to my face to think that it might be.
I really can’t tell these penguins apart yet like the staff that work with them on a daily basis. The penguins wear armbands that are color coded or have their names written on them. That’s how I know who is who. I hope in the future that I’ll be able to tell them apart by their looks and personality. After all, I did catch a bad case of “Penguin Fever” and the only antidote is to spend more time with these fascinating birds.
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