Penguin walk returns to Calgary Zoo with COVID-19 precautions

Click to play video 'Calgary Zoo penguins waddle their way through first weekend walk of the year' Calgary Zoo penguins waddle their way through first weekend walk of the year
WATCH (Jan 19, 2019): About 15 penguins paraded through the Calgary Zoo grounds on Saturday at 11 a.m., all because the weather was just right for the birds to get their exercise – Jan 20, 2019

The Calgary Zoo’s annual penguin walk starts on Friday with special COVID-19 restrictions in place.

During the daily walk, the zoo’s king penguins waddle along a designated outdoor route as visitors stand by and watch.

The zoo says the walk is good for the penguins’ health and overall well-being.

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“It stimulates their mind, encourages exercise, and as naturally curious creatures, it offers them a change of scenery and a chance to explore more of their world here at the Calgary Zoo,” a news release explained.

The penguin walk at the Calgary zoo. Calgary Zoo handout

This year, the zoo says the walks will have limited viewing capacity and those in attendance will have to stay stationary to help maintain physical distancing. In addition, masks are mandatory for anyone over two years old.

The first penguin walk of 2021 is scheduled for 10 a.m. on Jan. 15.

Read more: King penguin chick overcomes ‘incredible obstacle’ to hatch at Calgary Zoo

This year will mark the first penguin walk for the Penguin Plunge’s newest king penguin chick, Boudicca, who hatched on July 18.

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“During the walk, you’ll easily be able to spot Boudicca by her roly-poly shape and fluffy down feathers,” the zoo said. “You can also be on the lookout for seasoned mama Grace (purple band on her left wing) and proud papa Solomon (orange band on his right wing).”

According to the zoo’s Allison Archambault, Boudicca is “already figured out” when it comes to the walk.

“There’s some excitement as soon as the king penguins wake up in the morning, they know the routine,” she said.

“The older ones are showing our younger chicks and our juveniles that we stand near the gate, and they start puffing up, they look very interested.

“When that gate opens, they choose to leave it, they’re not being asked to leave it, the gate opens, they see the fish bucket and they’re out of there.”

The penguin walk at the Calgary zoo. Calgary Zoo handout

In addition to Boudicca, there will be as many as 13 adult king penguins participating in the daily walk.

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“As joyful as the penguins are to be experiencing this outdoor enrichment that is very unique from their usual habitat, the joyful look on faces of people young and old is just something so inspirational and so humbling for all of us at the zoo — that we’re able to share this gift with our community that’s been so good to us all year this year,” Archambault said.\

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Tickets to the zoo have to be pre-purchased in advance on its website.

The daily walk starts at the Penguin Plunge, loops down to the Discovery Trail Bridge and then back up to the penguin habitat over a 15-minute period.

The zoo says the walk is dependent on the birds’ desire to walk as well as the weather. If the temperature warms up to 6 C, drops below -25 C or the winds are too excessive the walk is cancelled.