Clint Ball, aviculturist at the South Carolina Aquarium, said, "If you want, just climb right on in there with the penguin." The penguin, labeled as #101, sat behind a 3-foot wall waiting to be fed but not before a cameraman from Channel 4 and I took some pictures.
I jumped at the chance, climbed in and there I was on the floor right next to a Magellanic penguin. Everyone else stayed on the other side of the wall since there was very little room to move inside. Not afraid, he moved closer as I got my camera ready.
At first, I shot away at this little guy as he stood only inches from my camera. He was just as curious about us and our cameras as we were with him.
After taking a couple of pictures, I put the camera down and just watched him while he basically watched me. I wondered if he would bite me if touched him. I decided sitting next to a penguin was cool enough and left it at that.
Four penguins, on loan from SeaWorld San Diego, will spend a year at the South Carolina Aquarium and are getting cozy in their new home, Penguin Planet, opening March 21.
Soon, the news cameraman turned his attention to the other birds and everyone turned away from my new little friend and me. He just bobbed his head up and down and around as he continued to watch me. Soon, apparently bored with me, he waddled to the wall and peeked through an opening, curious to see where everyone else went.
Looking for a better vantage point, he climbed up on a scale and stretched to catch a glimpse of the action beyond the wall. He reminded me of a little kid sneaking under the tent to see the circus inside.
Everyone associates penguins with arctic weather but the Megellanic penguin is found in warm climates along the coasts of Chile, Argentina and the Falkland Islands. They are about 2 1/2 feet tall, weigh between 8-11 pounds and live about 25-30 years.
The four small birds at the aquarium were born at SeaWorld San Diego. A small tag on their wings designates them by number, like my new friend #101. They are known by their numbers and do not have proper names.
When they eat, the penguins are finicky about the type of fish they have and how they are fed. Ball said the fish have to be presented to the birds a certain way and the fish have to look just right or the penguins won't take them. Along with the fish, the birds have a diet consisting of vitamins.
Nearly a threatened species, there are an estimated 1.3 million pairs of Magellanic penguins in the world.
During their visit at the aquarium, the penguins will stay in a 550 square foot habitat rented especially for them. The habitat consists of water and and a rock-looking shelf complete with ramps and space for them to sleep. The temperature inside is kept between 55-60 degrees even though they are used to much warmer temperatures.
The exhibit is set to open March 21 to the public after giving the penguins a month to adapt to their new surroundings.
If you want to visit the penguins online go to scaquarium.org/PenguinPlanet or follow their larger than life mascot, Waddle. If you plan on visiting the exhibit, look for $3 off coupons available in the paper March 18-20.
And when you go, tell #101 I said hello. I am pretty sure he will remember me.
Paul Zoeller is a freelance photographer new to the area. Do you have an idea for a new blog or a question about a current blog? If you do contact Zoeller at firstname.lastname@example.org.