Friday, February 27, 2009

African Penguins at the Maritime Aquarium

African Penguins in Connecticut?

February 25, 6:45 PM
by Kimberly Ord, Hartford Tourism Examiner

The Maritime Aquarium in Norwalk, CT is home to numerous sea creatures including shark, fish, seals, crab, stingrays, and now African Penguins. In my encounter at the Maritime Aquarium I've had the joy of feeling slimy stingrays in open touch tanks and live sea stars. Aquarium goers are entertained by the enormous floor to ceiling IMAX theater now featuring Michael Jordan to the Max, Wild Ocean: Where Africa Meets the Sea, and Grand Canyon Adventure: A River at Risk. The angled theater seating and large screen makes you feel like you're right in on the action. You can even meet Polly, Leila, Orange, Tillie, Suzie, Ariel, and Rasal on your visit. They are the aquarium's seals featured in daily feedings at 11:45am, 1:45pm, and 3:45pm.

The newest addition to make their home at the Maritime Aquarium is a colony of African Penguins, also known as Spheniscus demersus. Standing at approximately 2 feet tall and weighing in at 4 to 11 pounds these penguins are the newest exhibit, joining the African Underwater Safari which already houses fish and turtles from the Red Sea. The African Penguin is one of 17 species of penguins and is found on the southern coast of Africa, unlike popular Emperor penguins who live in frigid weather in Antarctica. What other qualities make these penguins unique? Resembling human fingerprints, their spot patterns are individually unique to each penguin, helping to tell them apart from one another. They have black stripes that loop across their chest, which helps with camouflaging while swimming in the water. Their pink "eyebrows" also distinguish these penguins from others. They have adapted these "eyebrows", or featherless patches, from living in Africa. It helps to scatter body heat when they get too hot.

It has been reported that in the 1930s approximately 1 million African penguins existed worldwide. Presently however their population has decreased drastically to 150,000. Like many endangered species these penguins' food and habitat are destroyed by humans. The penguins compete with commercial fishermen and suffer from oil spills. You still have the chance to see these unique penguins in person. They will be featured in the exhibit until December 2010. When visiting the aquarium head towards their display on the riverfront courtyard. There you can view these small creatures from above and below water. After all, they may have wings but these birds don't fly.

Story and image courtesy of the Hartford Tourism Examiner @

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