Meet Monty and Poppy at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. These baby African penguins are not yet on exhibit. You can see the other penguins on the regular penguin cam.
The New England Aquarium in Boston, MA also has some little blue penguin chicks–from New Zealand! You can read more about it here.
Take a moment today to appreciate penguins as most species are threatened by food or habitat loss. Thanks climate change. And ride your bike or walk instead of driving your gas guzzler to give the planet a break.
The New England Aquarium is located on the wharf, not far from City Hall and Fannuil Hall
in Boston. I was walking to get knitting supplies at Newbury Yarn and found myself just 11 minutes from the aquarium. They close at 5:30 but I’d promised to be at an event in the Back Bay by 6:00 p.m. It might seem silly to some to pay $27.95 for about an hour of walking around. But I saw they had rockhopper penguins! And this is the home of the Pacific Octopus that Sy Montgomery befriended in her book Soul of An Octopus!
I was not disappointed. They have three types of penguins living separately on the first floor: African penguins, Rockhopper penguins, and Little Blue Penguins. It was fascinating to see the Little Blue penguins molting. I also saw a woman with my dream volunteer job: cleaning penguin poo off the rocks in their enclosure.
Call me crazy but it would be a kind of zen thing to do and allow me to get to know them better as individuals.
The aquarium is built on multiple levels all spiraling around the deep sea aquarium tank in the middle. It was crowded the day I was there. I finally had to ask someone working at the tidal pool where the octopus resides. All the way near the last possible tanks in the Vancouver bay exhibit. This octopus had camouflaged in all white with coarse bumps and then slide into the far left corner. I overheard little boy who had clearly been searching for him, exclaim his frustration at not seeing him at the other side of the tank. I tapped him on the shoulder and pointed out the octopus to him. He was probably 5 years old and he began to share octopus facts.
His dad confirmed how smart they are. I showed him a circle about the size of a quarter with my hand and said, “Can you believe that big fellow could squeeze through a hole that size?” His eyes got big. It was lovely to stand gazing at the octopus with someone as enthusiastic as I am.
I found a book for my grandson called Octopuses One to Ten by Ellen Jackson in the gift shop. “Octopuses in disguise have four ways to fool your eyes.” They can squirt a cloud of ink, or change their skin color or texture to blend in, or detach an arm if a predator grabs it, or disappear into his or her den until danger passes. This is why they have survived in our world so long. (Plus mankind is still not able to navigate underwater easily.)
The gift shop was not well stocked when I was there. However, I appreciated the more limited space devoted to commerce. Monterey Bay Aquarium could learn from them, they seem to favor the Disneyland approach. They also have dozens of activities to participate in for adults and children. For slightly more admission you can also watch films at the iMax theater next door.
The New England Aquarium is an easy walk from the T station at Government Center. I took the green line to the Back Bay and was at Tevis’ home within 30 minutes for just $2.75.
The African penguins are on the second floor of the Monterey Bay Aquarium, past the top of the Kelp Forest and adjacent to the Splash Zone. The area was empty of people when I first arrived. I sat on the carpeted bench and watched as child after child discovered the exhibit. “Penguins!” they’d exclaim with the face lighting up. Many sea creatures scare people because they are potentially lethal–jellyfish and sharks–but everyone appears to find the penguins charming and funny.
The penguins at the Aquarium are fed daily at 10:30 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. There is no special ticket required to watch the keepers feed them fish and answer questions from the audience. There are also interactive displays to expand your knowledge of penguins. African penguins are among the most threatened species because of their dwindling food supply and habitat, but the Aquarium stays upbeat.
The Aquarium is part of AZA Species Survival Plan, a zoological conservation program that is keeping endangered animals alive and maintaining their genetic diversity through collaboration and sharing of, in this case, the birds around the U.S. When I compare the rich, stimulation that African penguins have in the wild with the sterile, almost two-dimensional exhibit space, I have to remind myself how they can be ambassadors that inspire people to care about what is happening to these wonderful birds in Namibia and South Africa.
Need a penguin fix and can’t get to Monterey? Watch the live Penguin Cam!
Over in South Africa, an organization called SANCCOB is leading the way in studying, rescuing, and rehabilitating wild African penguins. Through their Chick Bolstering Project, SANCCOB biologists monitor African penguins in the wild and bring abandoned, injured or starving chicks in for care. Together with colony managers, they also rescue and hand-rear eggs that have either been abandoned by their parents or when the adult penguins were found nesting in areas outside of the protected colony area. Last year Monterey Bay Aquarium Aviculturist Monika Rohrer journeyed to South Africa to volunteer with SANCCOB. (from the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s website)
On quiet days when there are few visitors the penguins get to go for a stroll outside their enclosure. Watch the penguin parade.
I am blessed to have friends who are also great photographers. If you loved Mara V. Connolly’s post on African Penguins then you may find this Ted Talk on penguins interesting.
Dee Boersma does a great job of explaining the appeal of penguins and why we should care. This next Ted Talk is specifically about the penguin rescue of African penguins from an oil spill that Mara referenced in her post. Listen as Dyan deNapoli describes the heroic penguin rescue off the coast of Cape Town.