Friday, February 6, 2015

Penguin birthdays galore at Caldwell Zoo

Published on Friday, 6 February 2015 - Written by By KENNETH DEAN
 Jeffrey watches over the nest of his girlfriend, Piper, at the Caldwell Zoo. (Staff photos by Kenneth Dean)

Standing guard over his girlfriend Piper’s nest, Jeffrey, the African Black-footed penguin, didn’t seem to be in the party mood Thursday morning. But on Saturday, he will celebrate his 12th birthday and will be the star of the show at Caldwell Zoo.
African Black-footed penguins are found in southern African waters. Like all existing penguin species, they are flightless, with a streamlined body and wings stiffened and flattened into flippers for a marine habitat. Adults weigh on average between five and eight pounds and are between 24 and 28 inches tall.
Whitney Paccione, a bird keeper at the zoo, said the species usually lives between 10 and 15 years in the wild, but in captivity they can live more than 25 years.
She said Jeffrey made his trip to Tyler from the Boston area in 2006 when the penguin exhibit was opened at Caldwell and has remained there ever since. “He is being a really good spouse as he is staying close to his girlfriend Piper, who is sitting on a nest,” she said.
Jeffrey did take a short swim while a Tyler reporter visited this morning, but returned to Piper’s side quickly.
“He will go for a few minutes and then come back,” Ms. Paccione said, “And then he will let her go take a bath.” Lauren Burch, a teacher at Caldwell Zoo, said the zoo often celebrates animals’ birthdays. She pointed to a Black rhino, which was able to eat some special birthday cake a week ago.
“We have the penguin this week, and then a river otter who will have a birthday next week,” she said.
Ms. Burch said on the animals’ birthdays, they are sometimes treated to specialties. Signage will inform the zoo visitors when it is a special day and how to identify the birthday boy or girl.
There will be more penguin birthdays this month, with Buttercup celebrating next week and Donut turning a year older in two weeks.
Caldwell Zoo is located on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard at West Gentry Parkway and is open 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily. Admission for adults 13-54 is $11.50; Seniors 55+ $9.50; Children 3-12 $8.00; Children 2 and under are free.


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