Friday, September 14, 2012

See video of penguins on vacation!

The Aquarium is open and in the midst of an exciting transformation! Click here for all of your construction updates. And be sure to stay tuned to the Penguin Blog to hear all about your favorite tuxedoed birds.

This entry is cross-posted on the News and Updates Blog.

During the transformation of the Giant Ocean Tank, the African and rockhopper penguins are vacationing in our off-site holding facility in Quincy. That's because Myrtle and the gang are going to be spending the winter in the penguin exhibit! (Watch video of Myrtle's move here.)

At Quincy's Animal Care Center, the penguins have a specially-designed climate-controlled enclosure with a swimming pool and a wide deck where the birds are fed. The penguins also use the wide, comfy deck for preening (especially when they're molting), mingling and resting. All the birds seem to be quite happy in their new living quarters. Take a look!

Of course, there are still penguins at the Aquarium! Be sure to come by to see the little blue penguins in their temporary pad around back near the New Balance Foundation Marine Mammal Center. And don't go far, we'll have more updates about the penguins—both from Quincy and the Aquarium—coming up soon!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Penguin relocations: We've been here before

You may have heard that the New England Aquarium is undertaking a major construction project:  the transformation of the Giant Ocean Tank. A big question that people may have is, "What do you do with all the animals during this type of project?" Well, Myrtle and all her tank mates will be moved into the Penguin Exhibit, which means the penguins have moved to a new home.

Little blue penguins

For the duration of the construction the penguins will be housed in two different areas. The little blue penguins will be on exhibit near the New Balance Foundation Marine Mammal Center at the Aquarium, while our rockhoppers and African penguins will be at our Quincy, MA, offsite facility. Stay tuned to future blogs to learn how we turned an open space in Quincy to a penguin habitat. (Followers of the Rescue Blog know all about the Animal Care Center in Quincy from this post!)

This has not been the first time we have had to relocate the penguins for a major construction project; it has been done a few times since 1978 when the penguins made their current exhibit home. The most recent was in the winter of 2008. The main purpose was to repair some concrete around the exhibit. This required all the 150,000 gallons of exhibit water to be drained. Before the water was drained, all the penguins were removed from the exhibit to a holding area behind the scenes. Our penguin off-exhibit holding area was not big enough to house all of our penguins so we borrowed space from our next door neighbors at the time, the aquarium’s Marine Animal Rescue department.

The penguins had a large flat deck area and large in-ground pools. It was a little weird not getting into a wetsuit every day to feed the penguins and clean; but it was a very cool experience being able to see and work with the penguins from a different perspective.

2008 file photo: African penguins swimming in their temporary housing during construction

Even though we were out of the exhibit all the same tasks—like preparing the food for the penguins, feeding them, and cleaning their living space—needed to take place. While cleaning the deck space we would escort all the penguins into the pools (check out our usual daily cleaning routine here). The pools had little ramps installed to help the penguins get out when they were done swimming (though many of the rockhoppers chose to just leap right up on the deck instead of using the ramps).

2008 file photo: The rockhopper room behind the scenes during construction

Also during this time we were able to make some modifications and repairs to the exhibit that would be very difficult to do if there was water in the exhibit. It was like walking around in a totally different exhibit!  Since all of our activities were being run out of  the holding area we had a chance to give our penguin office area a little face lift. 

2008 file photo: An empty exhibit, so weird!

Once the repairs were finished and the exhibit filled with salt water the penguins were reintroduced and life was back to normal. That is, until now. Don’t worry about going through penguin withdrawal. You will be able to get peek at our little blue penguins behind the scenes through a viewing window and stay tuned to the blog for penguin updates from Quincy.


Monday, August 20, 2012

Ch-ch-changes in the Penguin Exhibit

This entry is cross-posted on the News and Updates blog.

Something very special is happening, and it's evident when you first walk in the building. "Where are the penguins," visitors want to know. Well, the penguin islands are all empty because the birds have been moved to make room for the Giant Ocean Tank animals. The transformation of the Giant Ocean Tank is underway!

Visitors get to see little blue penguins in their new temporary holding exhibit.

Most of the penguins that normally live at the Aquarium are at an off-site holding facility during this important construction project. Our penguin staffers are splitting their time between the Animal Care Center in Quincy and a new temporary exhibit for the little blue penguins. These little guys are actually full grown and, if you look closely, you can see that their feathers actually look blue in some lights!

From the looks of it, the little blues are settling in just fine. They're up to their usual tricks: preening, resting, feeding and even swimming. Take a look at their special gateway to their swimming pool!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

On the road with Roast Beef

Visitors to the Aquarium are probably familiar with our penguin colony, but have you ever seen a penguin out around town? Last Wednesday, members of the West End House Boys and Girls Club had just that experience when Roast Beef – one of our star penguins – paid a visit to the Allston-based community organization thanks to a generous donation from New Balance. It was Boston school vacation week, so there were lots of club members on hand to meet Roast Beef and the Aquarium staff who came with him.

 Roast Beef in his climate-controlled cart

You might be wondering how a penguin can travel around town. The answer: We have a custom-made, climate-controlled mobile home for him. When you’re a penguin outside of your exhibit, it’s important to keep cool and stress-free. The air-conditioned cart keeps our penguin safe and at just the right temperature for this short visit

Andrea, one of the Aquarium’s penguin aquarists, gave a presentation to help the audience learn a little bit more about penguin biology, ecology and conservation. Roast Beef helped show off the physical characteristics of penguins, and even took his morning meal during the presentation to demonstrate how they swallow fish whole. (More video of feeding time in the Penguin Exhibit here.)

And at the end of the presentation, everyone had lots of thoughtful and intelligent questions to ask.  We’re pretty sure everyone had a good time because at the end of the visit, they made Roast Beef an honorary member of the West End House – complete with his own membership card.

Visits like this are an important part of the community outreach that the Aquarium strives to provide, and this particular visit was made possible with the support of New Balance. They are both a Corporate Member and Corporate Sponsor of the Aquarium, and the donation of an Animal Ambassador program (which includes penguin outreaches) to a school or community organization of their choice is one benefit of their membership.  If you’d like to learn more about our Corporate Partner programs, please see here.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Earth Day tips from the penguins

Earth Day is tomorrow, April 22, and here are some tips from our penguins to help your live blue™ on this special day and all year long!

Carpool:  If you and your friends are heading to the same destination, why not all go together in one car! This will help reduce the amount of carbon emissions that are released into the atmosphere.  Another way to help reduce car emissions is to use public transportation (when you visit the Aquarium, say, it is easily accessible by the MBTA subway system!) or even ride your bike or walk.

Penguins from the Shanghai Aquarium in China carpooling in a special penguin car

How do you transport seven rockhopper penguins from Orlando to Boston? You load up a van and drive! Learn more about how we transport penguins in this blog.

Reuse and recycle:  Before you throw that bottle away check to see if it has a recycle symbol on it; and if it does make sure you put it in the recycle bin. By reusing recycled materials it reduces the need to manufacture new materials which can be harmful to the environment.  It also reduces the amount of trash that ends up in landfills or even worse the oceans.   Better yet use reusable bottles or shopping bags whenever possible and that will help reduce the need for new products.

Choose sustainable food: If you like eating fish but feel bad that there are starving penguins in the wild, think about where your food is coming from. Try to pick fish that has been harvested or farmed in environmentally friendly ways. Click on this link to see the Aquariums guide to sustainable seafood. All the fish served at the Aquarium is sustainable — from the daily special served in our CafĂ© to the fish we feed the penguins and other animals. Try to purchase local or organic products whenever possible, too.

Feeding African penguins at the Aquarium

Conserve energy:  The less energy we use the less that needs to be produced. Conserve energy by using energy-saving thermostats and energy-efficient appliances and light bulbs, and by turning off the lights and water when not in use.

Instead of turning up the heat, be like these little blue penguins and put on a sweater.


Educate Yourself:  One of the best ways to help save the environment is to learn as much as you can and share your knowledge with friends and family. By learning about animals and habitats that are being negatively affected by our actions may help you take the extra effort to make more sustainable choices. Poke around our conservation and research web pages to learn what the Aquarium is doing to protect ocean animals, and what you can do to help. Stop by the Aquarium and listening to a penguin or Giant Ocean Tank presentation or read the Aquarium’s blogs. There are all great ways to get some useful knowledge.

Support Conservation Organizations:  There are many great local and global organizations out there that need your help. From donating money or volunteering your time to the New England Aquarium to writing a letter to your local government official, there are many ways you can help make a difference towards the health of our Earth.

SANCCOB is an important conservation organization dedicated to helping save African penguins in South Africa. Learn more about Paul’s time spent working at SANCCOB here.

From the penguin staff and all the penguins here at the New England Aquarium, Happy Earth Day!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

South Africa Farewell: Cape Town Revisted

This is a post from Paul Leonard from the Aquarium's penguin care team. He traveled to South Africa in the Fall of 2011 to volunteer his time and expertise helping to raise abandoned African penguin chicks at SANCCOB and study wild penguins on Dassen Island.

I've been home for almost four months now and it still feels like I was just in Cape Town. Before I get any further reflecting on this amazing experience, let me start out by sharing a short message from our friends at SANCCOB, the Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds.

Since I've returned from SANCCOB, lots of people have had tons of questions about my exploits. My responses almost always begin with, "It was awesome! You have to go there..."

Jo Blasi (catch up on her trip to South Africa here) and I have been reconnecting these past few weeks, preparing for our formal report on our adventures. Our Aquarium Lecture will take place at 7 p.m. on Thursday, March 15, at the New England Aquarium. It has been fun organizing and putting this presentation together. We've been thumbing through tons of pictures. We often find ourselves digressing into some irrelevant banter. Sometimes we'll show each other the scars that our hands received from the penguins portrayed in the various pictures.

Most of all I'm reminded of the new friends that I've made. They are all so much like us, passionate about protecting their natural resources for generations to come.

I hope you have enjoyed reading about these adventures. I hope they have given you insight into all of the intense work that is being done to save the African penguin from extinction. Please continue to support SANCCOB. Please continue to support the New England Aquarium's mission to Live Blue. Please continue to volunteer for whatever conservation programs you feel deserve the attention.

Paul Leonard

NOTE: The Aquarium Lecture Series is free and open to the public. However, if you would like to attend Jo and Paul's lecture on Thursday, March 15, at 7 p.m. here at the Aquarium, we request that you register online here.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

A Valentine's Day Look at Penguin Pairs

If you find yourself in the mood to find your perfect match this Valentine’s Day, you may be interested to know that the New England Aquarium works hard to make sure their penguins have a perfect match when it comes time for breeding season.

Photo: John Correa

The Aquarium takes part in the AZA Species Survival Plan (SSP) for the African penguins, which are now listed as an endangered species. The SSP is comprised of AZA (Association of Zoos and Aquariums) accredited institutions housing African penguins and develops a breeding program that will produce the most genetically diverse population possible. The genealogy of every African penguin born in the SSP is known, and each penguin is ranked based on its genetic value. Every two years, members of the SSP get together and, using the rankings, decide which penguins would make the best pairings. Sometimes the penguins already live at the same institution, but sometimes they need to be relocated to other SSP institutions.

In-Guza and Plum Pudding, a happy couple

Using these recommendations the Aquarium's penguin staff will begin the African penguin breeding season in the early spring. You can learn more about past breeding seasons here, and be sure stop by the penguin exhibit to see the juvenile African penguins (they are the penguins with the solid grey backs and solid white bellies) that were born over the last two breeding seasons along with all of the other penguins.

An African penguin sporting its juvenile plumage