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African Penguins by Keshia and Ashley

We work at the New Jersey State Aquarium. We give tours and know a lot about the African penguins. Keshia noticed that the curators add puzzles to some of the aquarium's other exhibits. The puzzles seem to enrich the animals' day and increase positive behaviors. We thought adding things to one of our favorite exhibits, the African penguins, might affect their behavior, too.

What did we do?
We looked for ways to get the penguins busy and active, without disturbing their behavior at feeding time. We decided to put three different kinds of stimuli into the penguin exhibit 30 minutes before feeding. We first observed their normal feeding behavior, without a special stimulus. Then we put pine cones and branches in the exhibit before the second feeding, hung a colorful banner before the third feeding, and waved streamers and bright lights outside the exhibit before the final feeding. We counted the number of positive behaviors (like minding their own business and playing), and negative behaviors (like fighting or pushing) while the curators gave them their food at each feeding.

What did we find out?
Without a special stimulus added, the penguins showed good behavior during feeding about 40% of the time. The penguins were really busy playing with the pine cones and branches, and at feeding time they showed positive behaviors about 50% of the time! The penguins didn't give much attention to the banner or streamers, and their positive feeding behavior dropped to 35%. We thought the pine cones and branches were a good addition, because the penguins were able to play with those things, and their feeding behavior remained positive afterwards.

What can you do?
  • Visit your local zoo, and look at the animal exhibits. What sorts of things are in the exhibit to keep the animals busy and active? Make a note about what you see in different animals' exhibits.
  • Did you know most penguins don't live at the North Pole? Many don't even live in cold climates! Do some quick research and find out other cool facts about penguins. Why do you think people believe these things? What other animals have common misconceptions surrounding them?
  • What kinds of toys does your pet prefer? How does your pet behave after you take the toy away? Investigate which toys make your pet too crazy and which toys keep your pet busy without going wild.
  • Use this zoo investigation as a science fair project idea for your elementary or middle school science fair! Then tell us about it!
more resources
More on animal behavior.

Go to the DFTV Boards, and tell us about your science investigation.
whiz quiz
Orangutans are brachiators, meaning they can do what?

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