Thursday, March 6, 2008

Playing in the snow

These penguins had never known snow. Never seen it, certainly never slid their fat bowling-pin bodies down a bank of cool white. These were zoo penguins, born and bred. Their world was perpetually cool, but always indoors.

Keepers at the St. Louis Zoo were a little unsure how their penguins would react to seeing snow for the first time.

As more than 10 inches fell on the area, they selected which of the zoo's 58 indoor penguins would go outside. They did not include the older birds, those with injuries or arthritis. They did not include the nesting or molting birds; it would be too stressful. They whittled the group to seven — six Kings and one Gentoo — and led them into the snow. They dove right in.

One of the King penguins raised its beak and bellowed a sound like a kazoo. The one Gentoo penguin, a smaller bird bearing a white stripe on her head, flopped onto her belly in the snow. A King penguin named Barry bellowed. Then a King named Tut slid on his stomach on a small snow bank, his wings out at his side and his webbed feet pushing him forward.

"That was unbelievable," keeper Rick Smith said. "The reaction of the birds makes it worthwhile."

Watch video on KSDK Newschannel 5.

Source: St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Photo: St Louis Zoo

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