Thursday, September 22, 2011

Aquarium mourns penguin death, prepares for fundraising walk

Posted: Wednesday, September 21, 2011 

MYSTIC – It's been a whirlwind week so far for Mystic Aquarium's African penguin colony.

On Monday, aquarium penguins and staff visited Get Fired Up ceramics studio in Pawcatuck to create art to be given away as prizes during the Fifth Annual Penguin Run/Walk on Oct. 15 at the aquarium.
Penguins had their feet dabbed with non-toxic paint before waddling across blank tiles to create works of art. Painting is a form of enrichment for the penguins. They are trained to stick out their feet to allow trainers to examine them as part of Mystic Aquarium’s animal care program.

The Oct. 15 event will consist of a 5k run, a 2-mile walk and a quarter-mile kids race, with penguin-made prizes awarded in various categories. Visit for more information.

On Tuesday, the aquarium announced the death of Yellow Red, also known as “String,” a 19-year-old female African penguin, who passed away unexpectedly on Friday.

String was hatched at the Aquarium on October 4, 1991. An African penguin’s life expectancy is 18 to 20 years in the wild, but they can live into their mid-30s in zoos and aquariums, the aquarium said in a release.
The cause of the penguin's death is still unknown.

Because of her curious and calm nature, String was an outstanding contributor to aquarium’s interactive programming, the release said. She was the first to participate in a penguin encounter and make a penguin painting, and she helped develop the aquarium’s penguin training program that uses tactile reinforcement. String often appeared at public events and in the media, including appearances on national television.

Mystic Aquarium's African penguins serve as ambassadors for their wild, endangered counterparts. Over the last six years, the world’s population has decreased by an alarming 60 percent. The public can contribute to the aquarium’s African penguin conservation efforts by visiting on Oct. 8 during the aquarium’s African Penguin Awareness Day celebration and by participating in the Oct. 15 run.

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