By Erica Rymer, Events & Marketing Specialist
In 1998, the Akron Zoo started our Humboldt penguin colony with just five penguins. Since then we have celebrated 16 births, mourned several deaths, and anticipated the arrival of new penguins. Despite these changes, the one thing that has remained consistent is our love for each one of these unique birds!
“Working with the penguins is similar to managing a classroom,” said Vicky Croisant, one of our penguin keepers. “Each bird has a different personality with their own little quirks or preferences and you need to learn how to manage that successfully. Personally, I feel like I have a different relationship with each individual penguin that's built on trust and respect. A lot of that comes from spending time in their habitat, and letting the birds figure me just like I figure them out.”
Our current penguin colony consists of 13 members, each with a unique personality. To celebrate this World Penguin Day, we want you to have the same insider look into the lives of our flightless friends as our staff get!
Titi is the oldest Humboldt penguin in our colony. She was born on May 20, 2006. She is mated to one of our male penguins, Franz. Keepers lovingly refer to the couple as “Franziti.” Titi can be identified by her clear band with blue and purple tabs.
Rocky was born March 18, 2007. She is mated to Armando, and their keepers have given them the couple name “Rockmando.” Rocky is always one of the first penguins to come into the building at feed times. She is unique from our other penguins in that she has square edges at the top of the horseshoe marking on her chest. She can be identified by this, or her clear band with yellow tabs.
Guapo is our oldest male, and the oldest of our current colony who hatched at the Akron Zoo! He was born on May 11, 2007. As a chick, Guapo failed his first indoor swim test because he didn’t have enough oil spread in his feathers and got a bit waterlogged. He was mated to Lima until she passed away. The couple had two chicks, Pedro and Anadeo. Guapo’s favorite enrichment is an acrylic mirror panel. He can be identified by his black band with green and clear tabs.
Gabriella was born on April 6, 2010. She is mated to Pez, and the couple have had two offspring, Bibiana and Rico. Bibiana is no longer at the Akron Zoo, but Rico (who was born last year) is! Gabriella’s most entertaining personality trait is that she will run into almost any borrow during feed time, even if its not her typical burrow or other penguins are currently occupying it. She can be identified by her clear band with purple and green tabs.
Pez, pronounced “Pace,” is another Akron Zoo native! He hatched here on January 8, 2011. His sister, Nina, currently lives at the Santa Barbara Zoo. Pez and Nina marked the first time we had Humboldt penguin parents raise two chicks together.
Though he and his sister are no longer together, Pez still finds ways to have fun. Once a guest dropped a plastic toy into the penguin pool, and Pez retrieved it and carried it back to his burrow! Pez has also donated feathers to NASA Glenn's biomimicry department. He can be identified by his black band with purple and yellow tabs.
Pedro hatched at the Akron Zoo on July 8, 2012. He is the oldest of Guapo and Lima’s offspring. The name Pedro, which means “rock” in Spanish, was chosen because, during the previous breeding season, Guapo had no egg to incubate so he instead took to incubating a rock. Pedro can almost always be counted on to participate in guest feeding during behind-the-scenes tours. He is banded with the same colors as his grandfather, Amigo: black band with green and orange tabs.
Mouse was born on December 9, 2013. She is mated to Schnitzel, and the two are referred to as "MouseSchnitz" by keepers. She can be identified by her clear band with black and blue tabs.
Armando was born on February 11, 2014. His favorite enrichment is bubbles. He is mated to Rocky. Armando is extremely patient during feed time, and he spends a lot of his pool time floating against the glass and interacting with guests. He can be identified by his black band with orange and yellow tabs.
Schnitzel, whose full name is actually "Schnitzel Gesundheit," was born on March 9, 2014. His favorite things to play with are pieces of car wash material that he carries into his burrow. Schnitzel is unique because, on his father’s side, he is descended from a line of Humboldt penguins that originally came from Germany. He and Mouse have been nicknamed "MouseSchnitz” by keepers. He can be identified by his black band with blue and clear tabs.
Franz was born on March 25, 2014. His favorite enrichment items are large cardboard boxes or upside-down kennel halves. Franz’s full name is actually "Franz von Schmidt”. Both his parents are descended from a line of Humboldt penguins that originally came from Germany. He is also related to the "sprinklebottom" Humboldts that hatched in Columbus in 2018. He is mated to Titi and can be identified by his black band with yellow and clear tabs.
Anadeo is another native, born at the Akron Zoo on February 12, 2015. Though her parents are Guapo and Lima, Deo was fostered raised by Tweedle and Una. Deo loves toys that look like penguins. When she was being weaned, Deo would sleep with a plush penguin toy. Her favorite enrichment item is Oswald the two-foot plastic penguin. The most interesting thing about Deo? She was originally sexed as a male… then she laid an egg! She can be identified by her clear band with blue tabs.
Rico is the baby of our colony! He was born at the Akron Zoo on June 1, 2018 to Pez and Gabriella. Weight-wise, Rico the largest chick to ever be hatched at the Akron Zoo. He exhibits several funny behaviors, including napping while floating in the pool and trying to flirt with his keepers.
“Rico considers me and Kristen his girlfriends,” Vicky Croisant told us. “He gets extremely excited to see us and will follow us around the habitat. With me, he will actually stand next to the bucket during feed times and ‘defend’ me from the other penguins. He'll posture and display in an attempt to intimidate them and, on occasion, will even give a full-out bray. The other penguins have learned not to pay attention to him in those situations now. He isn't the first bird to be attached to keepers and will probably grow out of it once he has a penguin girlfriend to focus on.”
Rico is banded with the same colors as his grandfather, Carlos: black band with blue and orange tabs.
Thanks for getting to know our penguins! Be sure to stop by your Akron Zoo so they can get to know you too! Happy World Penguin Day!