California Aquariums


Penguin Watching Attracting Huge Crowds in Long Beach

Aquarium of the Pacific
100 Aquarium Way
Long Beach, CA 
(562) 590-3100

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By C. MacDonald

Round and round they go and where they stop nobody knows. Darting and diving. Zooming and winking. Splishing and splashing. Adorable and playful Penguins have become a major hit with locals and tourists at the spectacular Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach.

When its guests spoke, the aquarium listened and took action. Exit Surveys showed that visitors to the sensational seaside attraction wanted to see penguins, so the aquarium made it happen.

An anonymous donor helped make possible the new June Keyes Penguin Habitat (outdoors on the second floor) which features 13 adorable Magellanic Penguins, native to Chile and Argentina. Some had followed fish, then ended up being stranded off the coast of Brazil and were unable to be released in the wild. Others were born as part of the Species Survival Program. Rob Mortensen, Assistant Curator of Birds and Mammals, said they got some from the San Francisco Zoo, where he helped pick them up in an air conditioned truck and brought them to Long Beach. "We want the penguins to breed here, then we'll find good homes for them," he said. The aquarium is a member of the Association of Zoos & Aquariums.


The Magellanic Penguins, which you can view upclose and personal outdoors in front of a gigantic glass window (where they swim above and below the water) as well as inside a glass crawl-in space (where they actually dart by in water above your head), are named after Portuguese Explorer Ferdinand Magellan, who was the first to sail from the Atlantic to the Pacific in the 1500s.

The cute penguins vary in size from 26-36 inches, in weight between 6 and 15 pounds and in age from babies to 9. They can live to be 30. They have dense feathers--sometimes up to 300 per square inch. They are birds that can't fly but they can use their wings like flippers to propel themselves through the water at speeds up to 15 miles per hour. Even their body shapes, help them swim rapidly. They can hold their breath for up to 2 minutes and dive to 150 feet. At the aquarium, some are fed 17 medium-sized herring or smelt a day.

Each has a distinct voice, just like a human's fingerprint. They are able to tell each other apart by their voices. They use sounds to find their chicks and sometimes their mates from the previous year. Penguins also have unique personalities. There's 1-year-old Newsom, whose very friendly; Kate and Avery, who are a romantic couple that are favorites for TV news show segments; and some of the others have been named Robbie, Patsy, Shim, Henry, Floyd, Ludwig and Jeremey.

"How penguins have survived and evolved is amazing," said Mortensen, who has been at the aquarium since 1997. "Here's a bird, who lives in the ocean but can't fly that has evolved so it can live in the cold (like Antarctica) or in the hot (such as South America). The ones here are warm climate birds and use the water to cool down so they don't overheat."

The habitat not only has excellent animal experts explaining everything there is to know about penguins but also features cool interactive touch screens, which tell about different types of penguins (there are 17 species) around the globe; show maps of where they live; tell about their weight and provide other fascinating info. You'll see a picture and learn things like the Chinstrap Penguin has a thin black stripe that goes under its chin and is found in Western Antarctica. Be sure and bring a camera with you, since there's a huge, horizontal wall photo with the very colorful penguins--a perfect place to take pictures of your family and friends.

Penguins have been around for more than 50 million years--over 200 times longer than humans, according to one exhibit. Nearly 75% of all penguin species are vulnerable and near-threatened. Since 1987, the largest breeding colony in Argentina has declined by 20%. Also, colonies are forming farther north as their food supplies move and the climate changes. People can help them by protecting penguins where they breed and forage; by reducing pollution, especially oil pollution; by reducing overfishing of the food they depend on, and by reducing our need for coal, oil and other natural resources.

Don't forget to see the 8-screen Penguins Multimedia Show in the Great Hall (on the First Floor). To learn more about our penguin friends and the aquarium, see; visit it next to Rainbow Harbor Lagoon at 100 Aquarium Way or call 562-590-3100.



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