January 9, 2016 7:03 pm
Updated: January 9, 2016 10:01 pm

Calgary Zoo’s first Penguin Walk of season nearly called off due to cold

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CALGARY – It was so cold in Calgary Saturday morning, that the first Penguin Walk of the season at the Calgary Zoo was nearly called off.

Yes, you heard right. Too cold for penguins….or at least king penguins.

A frosty morning at the Calgary Zoo, with temperatures dipping to -23C, you’d think the place would be empty. However, crowds were lining up in anticipation of seeing the zoo’s animals escape their confines.

People who came to see the penguin walk almost went home disappointed because Calgary’s ‘cold’ can sometimes be too much, even for penguins to handle.

“I think it would’ve been terrible for them because this is their outing. And for us as well, it would’ve been terrible for us,” said Michael Wiens.

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It was touch and go Saturday morning, with the temperature hovering around the -25 degree cut off point but in the end, the birds were allowed out.

“At this temperature they have access inside, so if they are feeling cold they will come back in and if the wind picks up we will definitely bring them in. But for now, they seem happy, they are ready to go,” said Dr. Malu Celli, the Calgary Zoo curator.

The Calgary Zoo has eight king penguins, which are not accustomed to the frigid Antarctic-type temperatures like emperor penguins are.  Six decided to join the walk, one dad and chick opted to stay inside.

“When I open the gate, I still don’t know who is going to come out. Normally they don’t like to stay behind and have their friends go out somewhere, so they tend to just go along. But if they don’t want to do it, we would never force them, so this is very much their choice,” said Dr. Celli.

The humans who braved the cold on Saturday to watch the walk say it was all worth it.

“I thought it was so fun, the way they spread out their wings to waddle along and it was nice to see the mom of the little baby who looks like Chewbacca inside. It was really really worth it,” said Naomi Hartery. “I didn’t actually notice I was cold because it was so neat to see the parade. I think the penguins were super happy.”

The Penguin Walk happens every morning at the Calgary Zoo until March, weather and penguins preference permitting.

“We started doing it for the penguins really. In the wild they can walk up to 30 km a day just to get to open water and go to a fishing trip. So we realize they do enjoy the exercise,” said Dr. Celli. “They love being out, so we thought why don’t we offer this as part of their enrichment and we thought the public would love it too, so we decided to combine both.”

Saturday would have been the first walk for little chick Nero, who was born in August but he decided to stay indoors.

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