TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – The Florida Aquarium is celebrating Penguin Awareness Day on Wednesday, but they always celebrate their flock of 10 African black-footed penguins every day with their “Penguin Backstage Pass” tour.
The tour has since resumed after being paused due to the coronavirus pandemic and the aquarium’s closure.
The aquarium offers a behind-the-scenes tour with its 10 penguins, as the facility currently does not house a public habitat for the animals.
“So we started it back…when we reopened, making it all socially distanced. We used to be able to have 14 individuals, it didn’t matter if they were in the same party or not, and now it’s one individual family and now more than six individuals,” said Alex, a biologist with the Florida Aquarium. “And we’re able to stay socially distance with how large the area is, so I can have people sit down, come look at the penguins up close, while I’m on the other side giving them their space.”
Guests who purchase the tour will get to see the penguins up close and possibly experience a training regime or even get some cuddles from the more friendly birds.
Biologists with the aquarium expressed how important Penguin Awareness Day is.
“The reason that we have Penguin Awareness Day is because this species, along with some other species of penguin, are endangered. For the African black-footed penguin, we’ve lost about 95% of their population in the last century, most of it due to over-fishing. So we try to encourage people to purchase sustainable seafood so that way they can help make sure penguins have enough to eat, as well as us,” said Alex.
She said most of the overfishing is due to sardines and anchovy populations declining on the western side of Nambia, where these penguins can be found.
“They’re saying that if the fish populations don’t get better, the African penguin could be extinct in 15 years,” she said.
Groups of one to three can help the aquarium’s conservation mission by purchases a Penguin Backstage Pass tour for $105. Groups of four to six can purchase a tour for $180.