Introducing Juniper, this week’s Feathered Friend. She is a 1-year-old black-footed penguin, also called an African penguin (Spheniscus demersus). She lives with 21 other African penguins here at Denver Zoo where she hatched in May 2013. Juniper is special because you can actually meet her! She was chosen to be an ambassador for her species in Denver Zoo’s Animal Encounter program. Her keepers started working with her from about 30 days old to get her used to meeting new people. Sometimes Juniper can be a shy, but she is a very sweet penguin, and is gaining more confidence every day. She is still learning about her role within the flock and also how to be the best ambassador for her species when human guests visit. Juniper is the daughter of Catoe and Triangle. Catoe was the Feathered Friend featured on Facebook on November 22, 2013. In Catoe’s post we spotlighted how overfishing and oil spills are effecting the wild populations of African Penguins and what you can do to help including shopping for sustainable fish and reducing our dependency on oil by choosing alternative transportation and thereby reducing the chance for oil spills. (This post also led to another featured penguin - one of Juniper’s full siblings named Professor Pickles McScotland).
Juniper would like to spotlight what we can do here at Denver Zoo to keep our penguins healthy and help the wild populations too. One of the threats to the penguins here at the Zoo is accidental ingestion of foreign objects. Since the penguins live in an open air exhibit with a large pond of water sometimes people are tempted to throw in coins like a wishing well. Other times people just accidentally drop things into the water too. In both cases there is danger to the penguins. Juniper and her friends are very curious and like to play with things. Since they don’t have hands they use their beaks to move things around. Sometimes they even eat things that they shouldn’t. This could cause a choking hazard, or possibly poisoning. This is one reason the penguins are trained to eat from their keepers. It won’t keep them from eating things they shouldn’t in every situation, but it will be less likely for them to get into trouble. Coins especially cause a hazard because they are shiny like the scales of a fish. If a penguin ingests a coin there is a high possibility they could get poisoned from the metals found in the coin. Penguin stomach acid is very strong to digest the scales, meat and bones in a fish. This stomach acid can eat right through the metal in a coin and it will absorb into their bloodstream making them very sick or possibly kill them if not removed. Instead of throwing coins in the pool, Juniper would rather you use your coins to benefit her species in Africa through an organization like SANCCOB.
Juniper is very curious about new things which makes her an excellent ambassador for the Denver Zoo’s Penguin Encounter. This opportunity is a part of Denver Zoo’s new Animal Adventures Program, where guests can explore Denver Zoo like never before and get a one-of-a-kind experience that combines up-close animal encounters, intimate keeper interactions and guided tours. Are you passionate about penguins? You can purchase an upgrade to your ticket and get to meet Juniper in person! Your encounter starts with a guided tour through Bird World presented by Frontier Airlines and get a behind-the-scenes peek at how Denver Zoo cares for hundreds of birds. Spend some time in the kitchen as animal care staff prepare diets and help feed a variety of the Zoo’s fine feathered friends. For the grand finale waddle your way into the world of penguins to interact with one of these loveable creatures and hear from one of our animal care experts about what it takes to care for these unique birds. Penguin Encounters is available for guests ages 8 years old and older. You can visit guest services while at the zoo or visit the website for more details about how you meet her.
Come see Juniper and all the penguins at Bird World, sponsored by Frontier Airlines. You might see Juniper wearing her light blue wing band on her left wing. She is frequently hanging out with some of her best friends including penguins Huxley and Empanada.