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March of the new penguins

Black-footed birds visit Winnipeg zoo

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Siobhan Stewart, Owen Boychuk and Titus Stewart watch penguins at the zoo.

KEN GIGLIOTTI / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Enlarge Image

Siobhan Stewart, Owen Boychuk and Titus Stewart watch penguins at the zoo. Photo Store

Manitoba, say hello to Sal, Tubbs and Mooshu, three African black-footed penguins who made their debut Friday at the Assiniboine Park Zoo.

The HUB Horizon Insurance Penguin Cove exhibit is open daily from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and will be at the zoo until Sept. 30, when the penguins will be moved to a permanent home.

Penguin Cove is located in the zoo's former gift shop. Built into the existing structure is a rocky habitat with caves and a swimming area for the penguins.

The best part is the viewing area, which allows visitors to see the penguins on land and under water as they dive and swim.

The three male penguins will be joined by a fourth male named Jelly in June or July after he completes his moult, a process during which penguins shed their feathers once a year.

After the doors were thrown open Friday, the first to greet the penguins were grade four and five students from Laura Secord School.

"I think we're really lucky to get to see them first," said M Stangl, a Grade 5 student who said she had never seen a penguin before.

"We could see that one of them likes to swim a lot and the other two were sitting quite a bit."

River Sawchyn brought his digital camera and took photos and video.

"I was excited to see the penguins swim, I've never seen a penguin swim before," said Sawchyn, a Grade 4 student.

The $125,000 exhibit includes interpretive displays so visitors can learn about the struggles of penguins in the wild and conservation efforts that assist their survival. These penguins are found on the southwestern coast of Africa.

"The African black-footed penguins are threatened and are a perfect example of (suffering) the effects of humans and what we are doing to our planet," said Tim Sinclair-Smith, the zoo's director of zoological operations.

Threatened is the term used to describe species that are likely to become endangered if not further protected. Main threats to these penguins are declining food stocks due to the fishing industry, predators raiding their nests for eggs and oil pollution from spills.

Don Peterkin, the chief operations officer for the Assiniboine Park Conservancy, said the exhibit delivers family fun and education.

"It's ambush education," he said, with a smile.

"You perhaps don't come here to be educated but when you go home, you realize you've learned something."

Sinclair-Smith said the penguins were able to stop in Winnipeg as part of their journey from the Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta to their new permanent home, which is not yet being made public.

"For us to bring something like this to the city and province, to make it accessible and teach them about conservation and research, that's extremely important to us," he said.

He said the zoo is contributing $1,000 per year for the next five years to the SANCCOB (South African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds) and $10,000 to other research projects for penguin conservation.

Joanne and Matthew Almey brought their 81/2-month-old daughter Emily to see the penguins as an early Mother's Day outing.

"We think it's nice that kids have the opportunity to see penguins here because not everyone can travel to experience something like this," Joanne said.

The African black-footed penguins appear at the Assiniboine Park Zoo daily from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. The new main entrance is at 2595 Roblin Blvd., which is the former south gate.

ashley.prest@freepress.mb.ca

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Tyler Walsh | Multimedia editor Winnipeg Free Press News Café 204.295.1176 | @walsht

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 11, 2013 B2

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