Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Penguin Parties at the Tennessee Aquarium

 Ever bump flippers with a penguin? This little guy above got a big kick out of giving our gentoo penguin character a high five to start the day. Families are having a ball at the Tennessee Aquarium during our daily "Party with the Penguins" events. Now through January 8th, you can meet one of our costumed characters, learn more about gentoo and macaroni penguins and then tap your toes at the IMAX 3D Theater when "Happy Feet Two" hits the giant six-story screen.
 Shivers, the Aquarium's youngest gentoo shown above, seems to think the giant penguin looks like her.
 Kids can make flipper bands to match "Shivers," or their favorite penguin, and make some penguin feet to wear around the Aquarium.

Inside the penguin gallery, keepers have some special enrichment activities planned for the birds that our guests will enjoy seeing. When senior aviculturist Amy Graves asked visitors, "What is enrichment?" A little girl answered quickly, "Toys!" Amy explained that while that's correct, enrichment activities are not just toys for the animals. Enrichment includes visual, tactile (touch) or tasty activities. "We try to offer the penguins a variety of fun things that help stimulate the penguins mentally and physically," said Graves. "This could be offering them the choice to play with extra ice brought into the exhibit, which Nipper loves. Today he was trying to build a nest out of ice cubes. Or, it could be blowing bubbles."
 Blowing bubbles? You bet! In the image above, Amanda Pippen keeps a steady stream of bubbles floating through the exhibit while Graves explains the activity to visitors. "Pepper is all about the bubbles today," Graves said. "She loves hopping around and popping bubbles with her beak. And she even went straight to Amanda to pop the first bubbles to appear." Graves explained that anything breaking up the day for the birds is fun and exciting. "Even if they don't chase the bubbles like Pepper, many of the birds seem to enjoy watching them."
 Shivers, seen above, was one of the penguins that seemed to enjoy watching the bubbles. Graves said like puppy dogs, not all penguins choose to play "fetch." While Pepper was more active and engaged, Shivers chose to watch and enjoy.
While bubbles might not be a big hit with all of the penguins, there is one enrichment activity they ALL love - chasing smelt. "Smelt is their all-time favorite food, so we broadcast or toss the fish into the water," said Graves. "The birds dive in and swim fast for their favorite fish, simulating how they would feast in the wild. It's a great opportunity for guests to see how the penguins use their flippers and feet to quickly change directions to chase down a tasty treat."

See how macaws and otters enjoy special holiday enrichment items:

Enjoy all of the Penguin Party fun at the Aquarium offered each day at 10 am through January 8th, then head next door to see Happy Feet Two at IMAX.

You'll have plenty of time to enjoy both Aquarium buildings and the movie with your combo tickets.

1 comment:

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