The Calgary Zoo’s family-favourite Penguin Walk celebrated its fifth anniversary on Jan. 13 with a preview walk.
The nine king penguins took to the pathways for another royal waddle through the grounds of the zoo.
“We do this walk for enrichment which adds to their physical and mental health, for exercise and as well as part of their positive reinforcement training,” said Lauryn Record, penguin interpreter at the zoo.
Dave Kelly, former co-host of Calgary’s Breakfast Television made an appearance as special parade marshal, sporting a tuxedo.
Also appearing, in their own tuxes, were penguins Diana, Grace, Hera, Arthur, Caesar, Tut, Solomon and Nero.
A new addition to the walk this year is a five-month old male chick, yet to be named, who is just learning to find his voice.
“He’s getting to that age where he’s starting to use his adult voice,” said Colleen Baird, general curator at the Calgary Zoo.
The male chick stood out among the adult penguins, with his coat of fluffy brown feathers.
“That’s what king penguin chicks look like. They’re brown, they’re fuzzy, they have a different texture to their feathers,” said Baird.
Starting on Saturday, Jan. 14, the birds were scheduled to walk every day at 11 a.m., until mid March.
The Calgary Zoo encourages visitors to arrive at 10:30 a.m. to find a place on the pathway and to grab a hot chocolate.
The birds will begin their walks in front of the Penguin Plunge building and continue down to the Discovery Trail Bridge, and then loop back to their habitat.
Following a bucket of sustainable seafood, the penguins receive positive reinforcement for completing their walk.
“In the wild, king penguins can travel great distances to find open water. Giving them the choice of a daily walk is tremendous for their welfare,” said Dr. Malu Celli, curator at the Calgary Zoo.
The walks depend on the birds’ desire to join in and could be cancelled if the weather is warmer than 5C, or drops to -25C degrees, or if the conditions are too windy.
Although king penguin populations are seeing slight increases, the birds continue to face threats from climate change and rising sea temperatures.
To counter global warming, the zoo encourages its visitors to make small changes in their lives such as choosing to purchase sustainable seafood products.
There are currently about 1.6 million king penguin breeding pairs in the wild population.