Friday, January 15, 2016

Blue #penguins debut in Camden

Little blue penguins make their debut at Camden´s Adventure Aquarium.
Little blue penguins make their debut at Camden's Adventure Aquarium. Alejandro A. Alvarez / Staff

It didn't take Adventure Aquarium's eight little blue penguins long to adjust to life in Camden.
On their first day in front of the public, the birds played to the crowd, swimming close to the adoring fans outside their 9,230-gallon pool.

"Hi, penguin!" Maddy Billetdoux, 2, squealed as one of the penguins, barely a foot tall, darted through the water near her stroller.

The aquarium officially opened its new indoor exhibit, called the Little Blue Beach, on Friday. The 415-square-foot permanent exhibit houses two females and six males, with plans for two more penguins to arrive later.

The birds are the world's smallest penguin species, weighing just two to three pounds. All of the aquarium's little blues could fit in a bathtub.

They swim and dive in a 3-foot-deep saltwater pool, waddle on rocks and tuck away into brightly colored nesting houses modeled on the ones people build for them in their native Australia and New Zealand.

The penguins, who range in age from 1 to 3 years, were born at the Taronga Zoo in Sydney and temporarily lived at the Bronx Zoo before arriving in Camden late last month.

It's been a smooth adjustment. "They seem to seek guests out," said Michele Pagel, the aquarium's curator of birds and mammals. "We expected them to be shy," at least at first.

Displays let visitors learn about the little blues and Australia's Phillip Island, where the world's largest colony of the penguins - 32,000 of them - lives.

Camden's flock is "a little bit smaller, but equally as cute," said Vince Nicoletti, the aquarium's executive director and vice president.

That seemed to be the sentiment of the crowd that gathered to watch the penguins swim and enjoy their first public feeding, a breakfast of capelin, a small fish of the smelt family. Kids pressed their hands against the pool's glass and adults crouched down to get a better view.

"They're adorable," said Kathleen Billetdoux of Haddon Heights, Maddy's mother.

The high-energy, fast-diving penguins appeared to calm down after their midmorning meal. Most paid less attention to their admirers and instead crowded into a back corner.

Animal experience specialist Laura Principato told visitors: "They tend to huddle and go into a food coma together."


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