Please bear with me as this will be a rather long and sad post.
On the day before “Penguins’ Rock” opened at the Tennessee Aquarium, I posted a message on this blog about relationship building and watching the penguins. I told you how important observing their behavior is to make sure they are all staying happy and healthy. You see, in the animal world sickness or injury is a sign of weakness to predators. So an animal will try very hard to hide any health problems they may have. We use a critical eye to watch all of our animals and our volunteers help with this task. We have been paying very close attention to “Caesar,” one of the first four penguins to arrive here, for quite awhile now. At first he seemed as healthy as the other three macaroni penguins he was transported with. He seemed to enjoy his new surroundings just like the other penguins. But within a few days Caesar began exhibiting behavioral differences. He was not as energetic a swimmer as the other penguins, preferred to remain on his own, and wasn’t eating as much as the others. This caught our attention immediately. After consulting with other penguin experts within the SeaWorld network, a treatment plan was administered. For a period of time, Caesar bounced back and even began spending more time socializing with the other penguins. We also looked back at his health records and found that Caesar had shown signs of not feeding as well as his companions in the past, and he had some weight fluctuations. But Caesar always bounced back. Other Aquarium staffers would sometimes cheer Caesar on when he would snap up a fish with the other birds. We have had many good days with Caesar. This week however, his health began to turn. On Wednesday, our veterinarian drew blood and we learned that Caesar’s kidneys were failing. We tried so many treatments and worked very hard to help him get well again. After consulting with the other penguin experts in Pittsburgh and San Antonio again, we were told we had done all that we could do for Caesar, and no further treatment options were available. Caesar lost his fight with kidney failure today. This has been a very sad day for all of us. You see, we all pride ourselves on being professionals and giving all of our animals the highest level of care all of the time. But we also know when dealing with living things, the circle of life will eventually be complete. The thing that really helps today is seeing the smiles on the faces of everyone visiting. Our other 19 penguins are robust and healthy. They are still trying to eat us out of house and home, and still diving, splashing and hopping around as carefree as we would all like to be. There is a wonderful eye to eye connection that people make with these animals. And I’m thankful for the time I had to see eye to eye with Caesar.