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Romance Returns to Penguins' Rock

3/30/2010 4:40:01 PM

Pepper, Chaos and Paulie await nesting rocks at the Tennessee Aquarium

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                Contact: Thom Benson 423-785-3007

“Love on the Rocks – Season 2” at the Tennessee Aquarium
Penguins Receive Nesting Materials on April 1st
Chattanooga, Tenn. (March 30, 2010) – Anticipation is building at the Tennessee Aquarium as staff members prepare for another season of romance at Penguins’ Rock. Keepers began by giving the gentoo and macaroni penguins complete physical examinations. While this was going on behind the scenes, other staff members gave the exhibit a thorough cleaning. “We try to disturb the birds as little as possible while they’re nesting, so this is as spotless as the exhibit will be for the next several months,” said Aquarium aviculturist Loribeth Aldrich.
The rocks the birds will use to construct nests have been sorted and sanitized, ready to be given to the penguins at the start of breeding season on April 1st. “Once we give the birds the rocks, the exhibit becomes a busy beehive of penguins scurrying about building nests and stealing rocks,” said senior aviculturist Amy Graves. “This will be especially fun for spring break visitors who sign up for the Keeper Kids penguin observation activity. They’ll get a bird’s eye view of the action.”
Paulie and Chaos, the role model penguin parents who successfully raised Pepper last year, are expected to remain together. They are frequently observed guarding the site where they nested last year. Pepper is often seen standing nearby. “In the wild penguins are monogamous for the breeding season, but may pair up with a different mate the following season,” said Graves. “Penguins on exhibit frequently remain mates for life. It appears as though Chaos and Paulie have a very strong bond.”
Graves anticipates that most of the gentoos will pair up with the same mates again this season, but there are a few twists to watch. “I’ve seen Blue courting Flower which is a little strange. But when this happens, Nipper will waddle over and interrupt them and chase Blue off,” Graves said.
The macaroni storylines could become as interesting as any reality show on television. “You never know about the macaroni pairs until the last minute,” Graves said. “The wild card is always Hercules. He’s our largest macaroni and all the little females absolutely adore him. In fact, all the macaroni females have been seen standing with him at one time or another.” Visitors may want to check the flipper band color chart frequently to see which lady ends up with the dashing Hercules. “His favorite, the one he seems to stand most often with, is Shamrock,” said Graves. “He was with Sweet Pea last year, but she’s been seen a lot with Merlin lately. So who knows?”
While the first rocks will be given to the penguins on April 1st, this process will take several weeks according to Dave Collins, the Aquarium’s curator of forests. “We are going to use nesting platforms this year,” Collins said. “This will allow us to keep the exhibit cleaner without disturbing the birds. It will also help keep the nests separated and away from the narrow points of the walkway. Those locations were challenging for keepers to travel last season.”
Macaroni penguins don’t reach reproductive maturity until they are nearly five years old. So to Pepper, the Aquarium’s first penguin chick from last season, the rocks will be new toys. “I think she’ll enjoy playing around with the rocks. She’ll see the other penguins building nests and she’ll know she is supposed to be doing something, but she won’t quite understand the method behind the madness so to speak,” Graves said.
Visitors can expect to see nest building and courtship activities for about the next six weeks. If the birds are successful, the first eggs may appear at the Tennessee Aquarium around the middle of May.

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