Featured Image Credit: Liam James Doyle/Naples Daily News
By: Kira Krall
On November 15th, visitors to the Naples Zoo greeted four endangered African penguins that will be visiting the Southwest Florida city until April of next year. Squirt, Sal, Tubbs, and Missy enjoy a 3,000-gallon tank that stays a cool 68 degrees. This is the first time the Naples Zoo has ever hosted the famous marine bird. The penguins feel right at home in subtropical Naples because their native South Africa and Namibia also host a subtropical climate.
The exhibit brings special educational talks and games where you can test your knowledge about penguin adaptations. Penguin keepers have also stepped in to take care of the temporary visitors. 13-year-old Tubbs is famous among the keeper staff for his ability to eat. He can scarf down 32 capelin per day!
These penguins are providing an incredible opportunity to represent their wild counterparts. The African Penguin population was declared endangered in 2010 after their numbers fell by 50% in just three years. One of the major causes of their declining population is the former guano collecting industry. The 19th-century agricultural world faced a fertilizer crisis, so European and North American traders began scraping penguin poop off of the rocky shores of southern Africa and sent the fertilizer to farmers. However, guano is vital to the survival of African penguins. Penguin parents dig a nest in the guano layer in order to insulate their chicks against the brutal African summer temperatures that exceed 100°F. While guano harvesting has ceased, it disrupted the natural cycle of guano replenishment and forced the penguins to lay their eggs out in the open.
“Penguins in Paradise” is a travelling exhibit based out of the Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park in Fort Walton Beach, Florida. The penguins will be in Naples until April 15, 2018. Read more about the exhibit by visiting this website. If you’re in the area, be sure to stop by the Naples Zoo and say hello!