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March to the Penguins
Published Monday, March 16, 2009 8:18 AM
By Paul Zoeller
Summerville Journal Scene
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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.

Magellanic penguins swim in the water of Penguin Planet at the South Carolina Aquarium.

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.

Penguin #101 waits to be fed during a photo-op.

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.

Penguin #101 peeks through a opening as a cameraman films the other birds in their habitat.

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.

Clint Ball, aviculturalist at the the aquarium, carries #101 out of the habitat area to feed him for the cameras.

Megellanic Penguins

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.

The penguins hang out on their faux rock ledge in the 550 square foot enclosure.

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.

A list of vitamins and directions for dosage is kept in the kitchen at the aquarium.

Nearly a threatened species, there are an estimated 1.3 million pairs of Magellanic penguins in the world.

A pail of fish sit waiting for the next feeding.

Penguin Planet

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.

Waddle the penquin gets a hug from Jacob Somsky, 2 1/2, of John's Island in front of the soon to be opened exhibit.

The exhibit is set to open March 21 to the public after giving the penguins a month to adapt to their new surroundings.

Penguins have spent the past month getting comfortable in their new environment and will stay there until March 2010.

If you want to visit the penguins online go to 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

Comments (6)

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Penguins Rock
Sunday, March 22, 2009 11:56 AM

Well done South Carolina Aquarium! I can't wait to visit with my family. Awesome pictures.

Posted by: Bill
Thursday, March 19, 2009 1:48 PM

Hey Paul, These are so quirky and cute. Like Chris, I'm thinking how can we get one of our own-ha! Thanks for sharing the trip.

Posted by: Trina
Thursday, March 19, 2009 1:13 PM

Oh, they are soooooooo cute. Love that last photo with a penguin swimming in the water and another on the rock's looking down

Posted by: Co Hoa
Really Cute!
Wednesday, March 18, 2009 7:55 PM

This little guy is so cute. You have the best job! You get to do all these neat photos. We need you to come back to the Brazos Valley and take more photos-the bluebonnets are blooming!!!!!!

Posted by: PJ Henrichsen
Way cool
Wednesday, March 18, 2009 6:12 PM

These photos are great - makes me want to visit Sea World. My favorite photo is the first one with the penquins floating in the water. Good job, good job!

Posted by:
awww, so adorable!
Wednesday, March 18, 2009 11:04 AM

I just love penguins, and these pictures are just amazing! I must go see them!

Posted by: Janice

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