Disclaimer: Many thanks to the Georgia Aquarium for hosting me and giving me the opportunity to be apart of the Penguin Encounter. All opinions presented are 100% mine and were not influenced by the Georgia Aquarium.
From Happy Feet to The March of the Penguins, these beloved black and white animals have been the subject of numerous movies, but that is not where the love for penguins stop! Each year, penguin lovers from around the globe celebrate World Penguin Day on April 25th, and this year is no exception. Not to be confused with Penguin Awareness Day, which took place earlier year on January 20th, World Penguin Day is a day set aside to raise awareness of the challenges penguins face and how we can help protect them.
So how did this day come about? Well, that is an interesting finding. According to the Ian Somerhalder Foundation, World Penguin Day began when McMurdo research station scientists on Antarctica made an incredible discovery about a colony of Adélie penguins on April 25 of all days! It seems that this colony of penguins “returned to the same spot, on the same day, every year. This seemed too incredible to be a coincidence…and it wasn’t! This is the normal migrating pattern of these penguins.” So, to celebrate and bring awareness to these beautiful birds, World Penguin Day was created.
Recently I was given a firsthand look at these majestic seabirds behind the scenes at the Georgia Aquarium. Trainers Amy (pictured below) and Erin gave me in-depth look into the conservation work being done to save them at the Georgia Aquarium, and taught me a great deal amount these black and white beauties. Here are some of the takeaways from my interview with the trainers.
One thing is certain, my interview taught me that the Georgia Aquarium and it’s trainers are truly invested in helping. Cold Water Quest, home to more than 40 African penguins at the Georgia Aquarium, is more than just a place for visitors to watch these beautiful flightless birds swim and waddle. The Georgia Aquarium extends it’s love and passion for these birds beyond the walls of one of Atlanta’s prized jewels by being a bigger part of the efforts to save these beautiful animals.
“African penguins (Spheniscus demersus) are one of Georgia Aquarium’s flagship species and the subject of a long-running Species Survival Plan (SSP) through the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA). These SSPs are a tool that allows different zoos and aquariums that house the same endangered species to work together on managing their respective populations as a part of a coordinated whole. Through strategic breeding loans and animal exchanges between facilities, genetic diversity is maintained, ensuring the long term genetic and physiological health of penguins in zoological care.
In South Africa, a non-profit group called SANCCOB, which is one of the Aquarium’s longest standing research and conservation partners, deals with the challenging field conservation. South Africa is rich with sea bird diversity, but many birds face difficulties ranging from entanglement to oil spills and the effects of overfishing and climate change, such that they sometimes need a helping hand. This is especially the case for African penguins, which have shown significant declines in recent years and have been reduced to a handful of breeding colonies on islands off the coast of South Africa and Namibia.”
Are you a fan of penguins? I know I fell in love with them even more after my visit, and I was surprised to find out that they are actually quite soft birds. I had always had this impression that their feathers would be coarse, but that is not the case. Penguins actually have two layers: a fat layer and a feather layer. The fat layer is thick and helps penguins to stay warm. The top layer is the feather layer. It is actually wind and waterproof and is quite smooth and soft due to the downy part of the layer.
Here are some interesting penguin facts you may or may not know:
Penguins are flightless birds. They have adapted flippers to help them swim in the water.
Most penguins live in the Southern Hemisphere, not at the North Pole like you may think.
The Galapagos Penguin is the only penguin species that ventures north of the equator in the wild.
There are large penguin populations in New Zealand, Australia, Chile, Argentina and South Africa.
Penguins spend around half their time in water and the other half on land.
The Emperor Penguin is the tallest of all penguin species, and it can reach as tall as 120 cm or 47 inches.
The Little Blue Penguins are the smallest type of penguin with an average height of 33 cm or 13 inches.
World Penguin Day is April 25 and what better way to celebrate these beautiful birds than by visiting the Georgia Aquarium. The Georgia Aquarium offers guests and incredible opportunity to go behind the scenes to learn more about these fascinating animals with their Penguin Encounter. This encounter allows gives you a behind the scene glimpse into their research and conservation initiatives and the chance to meet a penguin or two! If you are a penguin lover like me, then this experience is a MUST!
Did you also know that when you visit us at Georgia Aquarium you are helping animals in the wild? Georgia Aquarium is a not-for-profit organization, dedicated to caring for animals. Proceeds from your ticket support further research and conservation efforts for African penguins and many other species, both here at home and in places like South Africa!
Georgia Aquarium can’t wait to have you celebrate World Penguin Day with them! Make sure to check out Georgia Aquarium on Facebook and Instagram on World Penguin Day to learn more fun information about this adorable endangered species. Be sure to catch the Daily Waddle Walk. Watch the trainers lead several African penguins on a daily stroll across the Aquarium’s main Atrium, allowing you to see this amazing species up close, and providing an important form of enrichment for the penguins in our Cold Water Quest gallery. This short presentation typically takes place between 10-11 a.m.
We hope to see you at the Georgia Aquarium on April 25! If you can’t make it, remember that even if you live miles away from the penguins, you can do your part to help save these birds by doing the 3 R’s- reduce, reuse, and recycle.