PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — It’s the march, make that the waddle, of the penguins.
Flightless birds scoot down the National Aviary corridor, to the applause of children and parents, on World Penguin Day.
“We have 20 African penguins in the exhibit, and we serve them a variety of fish,” says penguin keeper Chris Gaus.
KDKA joins him for one of the Aviary’s “penguin feeding encounters.”
“They use barbs on the roof of the mouth that act like a conveyer belt,” he says, “pulling fish down to their stomachs, completely whole.”
They’ll eat up to 20 percent of their body weight each day. That’s roughly 80 quarter-pound hamburgers for an average human.
Penguins are entertaining, but that’s not the only reason they reside at the Aviary.
“African penguins are a critically endangered species,” Gaus says. “They’ve lost about 90 percent of their wild population, and it’s believed they could be extinct in the wild in the next 10 to 15 years. As a member of the Associations of Zoos and Aquariums here at the National Aviary, our penguins are part of a breeding program that is set up to keep a healthy population going, with the goal of re-introducing them back out into the wild.”
Without predators, they can live twice as long as they would in the wild.