Tuesday, December 13, 2011

A Day of Penguins at the Two Oceans Aquarium

As an educator, I’m always looking for new ways to talk about our penguin exhibit to Aquarium visitors. It’s one of the reasons I came to South Africa—to see how other institutions teach about penguins. Fortunately for me there is an aquarium right in Cape Town so off I went to visit!

Welcome to the Two Oceans Aquarium!

The Two Oceans Aquarium is named after the unique position of South Africa. (Not the first Aquarium employee to go to this aquarium and blog about it!)  Both the Indian and Atlantic Oceans meet here so South Africa has a pretty diverse ocean habitat right outside it’s back door. The Two Oceans Aquarium does a great job at featuring different animals from these two oceans: colorful tropical fish, cold water kelp and even sand tiger sharks can be found. But I came for the penguins.

I was fortunate enough to have met the Director of Education Russell Stevens while he was here in Boston last summer. He and his staff were able to show me around and talk about what sorts of programming they do with their penguin exhibit! Two Oceans have rockhopper penguins as well as African penguins on exhibit, similar to the New England Aquarium, so it was nice to see some familiar beaks. The staff was so warm and accommodating and before I knew it, I was helping with feeding time.

Friendly "Young Biologist" volunteers helped answer my questions

In order to feed the penguins back in Boston, the staff and volunteers need to don wetsuits to stay warm inside the cold water. Here in Cape Town, the penguins are featured on a beach habitat so no wetsuits required! I was able to shadow Anna during her food preparations and feeding within the exhibit. Just like home, each penguin has a name and as each bird gets feed a sardine, it’s marked down on a sheet for easy record keeping. As Anna had her hands full making sure that all of the birds got fed, it was my job to make sure that the fish were accounted for.

Food prep

Data collection

We made our way from the African birds to the rockhoppers who were more than happy to visit the fish bucket. Nikki the rockhopper even paid Anna a visit once she was done feeding, or maybe Nikki just wanted his spot back on the rock!

Putting me to work

Anna (the person) and Nikki (the rockhopper)

It was a great day at the aquarium. I met some amazing people, shared ideas on how to get the message out there that penguins need our help and even worked in the exhibit. Aquariums are important places to share details about these animals but also to show people how they can make changes in their own behavior that can make positive changes for the oceans. The African penguin is endangered and needs all the help they can get. And the Two Oceans Aquarium is doing their part to make sure that the information gets passed along. So thank you to everyone that made my day a great one. All the best to Two Oceans folks—and if you are ever in Boston, make sure to drop by!

All lined up for lunch

Empty bucket means well-fed rockhoppers!

1 comment:

  1. Familiar beaks! Very clever!