Yesterday, I went to the Denver Zoo to attend one of the new Animal Adventures. For 90 minutes, we got a guided tour of the Bird World exhibit, as well as behind the scenes access to the kitchen, and private time with a penguin (the real reason to go). We sat down in the visitation room, and shortly after, Mattie (Matty?) walked in! She is a 5 year old penguin, and the only one the zoo staff considers suitable for in-person viewings like this, because she was raised from a chick by zoo staff. The other penguins they consider safe, but slightly unpredictable, so they don’t allow them for visitation.
Penguins are clearly a threat to security, and they get checked for weapons frequently. OK, not really. Stupid humans like to throw shiny coins into zoo exhibits with water (e.g. penguins, seals), and don’t consider that the animals are curious or may mistake it for food. The zoo staff keeps this metal detector wand on hand to periodically check the penguins for coins in their stomach. If the penguins can’t pass the coin naturally, they have to be taken for surgery.
Penguins are very curious creatures. Mattie did laps around the room investigating everything and everyone. It is pretty easy to get her attention with the right noises, or colorful objects like the wristbands we wore. She enjoys being scratched under her chin, and despite the menacing beak, does not bite hard at all. By this point, I was seriously considering my odds for picking her up and bolting for the exit.
A larger gallery of images is available on attrition.org.