The St. Louis Zoo is one of the jewels of our area, known across the world as a first-rate zoo.
It is also unique in being one of the few top-rated zoos in the country that remains free to the public.
In fact, it was the Readers Choice for America's best free attraction in a poll by USA Today.
One of the crowd favorite attractions at the zoo are the arctic loving animals living in Penguin and Puffin Coast. Right now there are 90 penguins living there, all with different names and unique personalities.
“It's basically like having 90 sets of twins, they all look really similar when you first start over here to get the hang of it” said KC Donaldson a bird keeper at the St. Louis Zoo.
The penguins are fed a fish called capelin twice a day, in the morning and at night
“They are the primary fish for most of the fish eaters here at the St. Louis Zoo. Capelin are very nutritionally similar to anchovies and sardines,” said Donaldson.
But the keepers make sure all the birds stay healthy with a little-hidden surprise in the fish.
Donaldson explained, “We offer them a marine bird multi-vitamin pill and we hide it inside the gills of the fish. The birds don't know, don't tell them. We can hand feed at least one fish to everybody in the morning and we're good to go.”
When you walk up to the exhibit, the first thing you’ll see is the outdoor area for the Humboldt Penguins, a native species of Chile and Peru.
In the wild, they nest in something called guano, also known as feces.
“It creates an excellent substrate for these guys to dig their burrows in,” said Donaldson.
But there are no guano burrows at the St. Louis Zoo, instead, plastic burrows are made especially at the zoo to simulate those in the wild
“We at the St. Louis Zoo have crafted atypical ways to give the birds the same opportunities to do those same natural behaviors, but the way we do that here may be a little different than it does in the wild,” explains Donaldson.
In fact, the St. Louis Zoo is not only caring for penguins here in St. Louis but at 13 Wildcare centers around the world.
Donaldson says, “Not only are we able to give the animals in our care here in St Louis an excellent wonderful life and they get to be part of our St. Louis Zoo family, but we also get to support the birds in the wild. So it’s just the best of both worlds. You can’t beat it.”
Penguin and Puffin Coast is one of the few open-air penguin exhibits in the country and is known across the world for its innovative design.
To help the zoo continue such work, click here.
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