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Sunday, October 6, 2019

From the Mystic Aquarium...

Mystic Aquarium logo

African penguin awareness day

They waddle, they bray, they don a tuxedo made of feathers and they are a fan-favorite here at Mystic Aquarium. In honor of African Penguin Awareness Day this Saturday, we pulled some fun insights from our care team along with some shocking facts about their endangered counterparts in South Africa.

The Penguins Train the Trainers (Well, Sort of...)
"Each penguin chooses whether he or she wants to participate in training routines, and that’s ok. They also take the lead in reacting to new stimulus, including trainers.”
      -Josh Davis, Senior Penguin Trainer

All of the animals in our care are trained through positive reinforcement, meaning they can refuse to complete a behavior. And, each penguin responds differently to new staff. It takes time to build the animal/trainer relationship – sometimes even several years-worth of baby-steps – and is always on the animals’ terms.

We Build Bonds with Each Penguin
“Our encounter program guests are surprised to see that our training is relationship-based rather than food motivated.”
      -Aimee Sugrue, Penguin Trainer

When trainers ask each penguin for a certain husbandry behavior, like opening their beak for an oral exam, the trainers often scratch behind the penguins’ head as a reward, mimicking their natural preening instincts. When trainers do offer fish as a ‘reward,’ more often than not, the penguin refuses the fish and prefers the attention from their trainer as positive reinforcement instead. 

African Penguins Need the Most Help
“Due to small or rapidly declining populations, these species require immediate scientific collaboration and policy intervention.” 
      -The Steering Committee of the International Union for Conservation of Nature Species Survival Commission Penguin Specialist Group                        

Of the 18 recognized penguin species, African penguins were identified as one in the most critical need of conservation action. That’s alarming. In fact, they could very well go extinct within our lifetime if we don’t take action to protect, conserve and learn about this species.

When You Run (or Walk), You Help Them

Penguin race medal
“Every dollar you raise and each time your feet hit the ground during our Run/Walk for the Penguins fundraiser, you’re helping our conservation, education and research efforts that are safeguarding their future.” 
      -Tracy Camp, Assistant Supervisor of Penguins

Registration for the 5k run or 2 mile walk along with donations collected through the free fundraising initiative help support our work in African penguin conservation. Fun race, fund raise, save penguins; how can you say no to that? 

Plus, new this year, runners and walkers registered for the Run/Walk for the Penguins will receive a fun medal designed to showcase the penguins’ sleek appearance and also shows off our penguin’s iconic beaded identification bracelets.


Assistant Supervisor of Pinnipeds and Cetaceans, Erin Gibbons, recently traveled to California to assist The Marine Mammal Center with the Unusual Mortality Event (UME) in the Pacific. In her time there, she worked long days to rehabilitate a wide variety of seals and sea lions and returned to Mystic feeling inspired by the aquarium and zoo community rallying together.

Coastal Cleanup Series

Northern Lights event


The season of giving is here and this year, we want to help kids get in the spirit! Download and print your #GivingTuesday Kids Calendar now to start making a difference in your community right away. Plus, be sure to check out our Pinterest page for inspiration and our website for events and a special kids promo leading up to #GivingTuesday on December 3.


This December, the Aquarium lights up during Northern Lights – a nighttime holiday light adventure. Northern Lights transforms our outdoor pathways into the land where the aurora borealis shines. Spectacular light displays dance to music while Arctic animals glow in a whole new light – come see for yourself!   

Northern Lights event