Penguins settle at Golden Gate Park

June 18, 2008 6:13:53 PM PDT
A colony of penguins is settling in at Golden Gate Park. The birds are the latest creatures to move in to the California Academy of Sciences' new museum. We've been following the project for the past couple of years.

It's lunchtime, and aquatic biologist Pam Schaller will be your server. This is an all you can eat affair, but sometimes the diners get a little pushy.

The penguin colony is in the California Academy of Sciences new building which opens next fall.

Last month, a couple of penguins tested the exhibit and took the first plunge in the 25,000 gallon tank. Now, the whole colony has arrived.

The tape on the glass is to help the penguins learn it's a solid surface, so they don't try to swim into it.

So far, so good.

"They are exhibiting very natural behaviors in here, and I attribute that to a very naturalistic exhibit," said Schaller.

These penguins are native to Southern Africa, so their tank is at the end of the museum's African Hall.

The other exhibits in the hall are still under construction. Most are being rebuilt to look just as they did when the original African Hall opened in the 1930s.

But there will be some new additions, including the penguins.

"We really wanted to focus on these birds in particular because their numbers in the wild are declining. In the early 1900s, you're looking at about 1.4 million birds, and now we're looking at about 180,000," said Schaller.

None of these 20 penguins were taken from the wild. Some were brought from zoos around the country. Others were bred at the academy's temporary tank in downtown San Francisco.

We first met Howard when he was just a few days old. Now he's almost a year and a half.

"Howard has a girlfriend," said Schaller.

Howard's girlfriend is Sefara. Penguins mate for life, but they usually shop around first.

"There's always drama, social drama going on in here, it's so funny," said Schaller.

Written and produced by Jennifer Olney.


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