Sunday, December 27, 2015

Penguins show off for Greensboro's initial Penguin Encounter

Posted: Saturday, December 26, 2015 
GREENSBORO — A showoff. There’s one in every group.
On Saturday, the showoff was Raven, a 1-year-old African penguin that was one of two featured in the Greensboro Science Center’s first-ever Penguin Encounter.
She’s always loved attention, said Martha Regester, the center’s director of education.

Raven, an African penguin, brays during the Greensboro Science Center's first Penguin Encounter on Saturday, Dec. 26, 2015. By JOE GAMM/News & Record

When she was really young, Raven would just fall over and allow herself to be set back upright.
“She loved the attention,” Regester said.

Raven got plenty of attention Saturday, as eight members of the general public were allowed to interact with her and another penguin, Kuechly (named after the Carolina Panthers’ linebacker Luke Kuechly).

The encounter, limited to eight people, will be held every Saturday.

It costs $35, in addition to the science center’s admission fee.

Attendees are required to wear closed-toe shoes and to put on booties (provided by the center) over their shoes to prevent avian flu from entering the penguin habitat.


Raven entertains during the Greensboro Science Center's first Penguin Encounter on Saturday, Dec. 26, 2015. By JOE GAMM/News & Record

It’s a 45-minute experience in which the public can learn about the feeding, care and conservation of African penguins in Greensboro. The program takes place in a back room of the center.

Shannon Fletcher, the center’s lead penguin keeper, gives listeners all the details — from the birds’ favorite fish — herring because of its high levels of fat and calories — to keepers’ control over breeding.

Fletcher chooses the fish she feeds the penguins very carefully. “They like a really, really perfect fish,” she told Saturday’s group.
Keepers closely monitor and record what each bird eats every day.

During the encounter, attendees are allowed to touch the birds on their backs and on their wings — to feel the silky soft texture of the specialized feathers.

Sabrina Woodbery feels the texture of an African penguin’s feathers Saturday during the Greensboro Science Center’s first Penguin Encounter. Kuechly (below) shows her shy side but curiosity later won out. Photos by JOE GAMM/News & Record

Amy Parrish and Ann Cokerhan traveled to Greensboro from Asheville just for the interaction with the birds, they said.

They have created a tradition of giving each other gifts of experiences for holidays and birthdays.

“I think this is the future of zoos,” Parrish said. “Now, it’s education and preservation.” 
penguin_gso_encounter004.JPG An African penguin named Kuechly hides during the Greensboro Science Center's first Penguin Encounter Saturday, Dec. 26, 2015.By JOE GAMM/News & Record

Raven lived up to her reputation, marching through the forest of human legs

She stopped periodically to raise her head and bray.

The African penguins are sometimes called jackass penguins because they bray like a donkey, Regester said.

Participants in the encounter were given shiny items with which they could interact with the birds. Experts think such objects remind the penguins of fish, Fletcher said.

As Sabrina Woodbery of Greensboro dangled a shiny toy in front of Raven, Kuechly became curious about her fingers.

“I got my fingers nibbled,” she said. “When Raven was playing, the other one came up and tested my fingers out.”


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