I Got to Hang With a Real Penguin in LA—And You Can Too

Get Up Close and Personal With a Penguin in Long Beach

Written By: Charlotte Farrell
Photographed By: Marco Carpanini Penguin Experience Long Beach Aquarium

Between Happy Feet and March of the Penguins, the early 2000s were all about penguin awareness. Our hearts broke watching the effects of global warming and pollution—caused by none other than ourselves—on the dwindling populations of our favorite feathered friends. But since then, the buzz has faded around the subject and the penguins are back to fighting to survive without much coverage in the news. Things have less than improved and I was eager to learn more, so what better way than to immerse myself in penguin “culture”?

At the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach, visitors can book ahead and get a chance to come face-to-face with penguins in captivity. I was taken behind the scenes, feeding the little fellas fish after fish while learning why these suited seabirds need to be brought back into the spotlight.


A Quick Q&A With Michele Sousa, Assistant Curator of Mammals and Birds:

Q: Describe some standout penguin personalities.

Michele Sousa: ‘Whatever’ loves her capelin and is the smallest penguin we have. ‘Shim’ is the largest penguin and is Whatever’s mate. ‘Admiral Fancy Pants’ loves all people and just finished doing the ‘topping off’ ceremony for the new construction at the aquarium. Gatz is our newest penguin and has a different feather pattern until his catastrophic molt.

Q: Can you explain how current environmental conditions are affecting penguins across the globe?

MS: 75 percent of all penguins are either threatened or endangered. The conditions affecting them are overfishing, degradation of habitat and rising temperatures.

Q: What are some things people can do to help?

MS: You can donate to institutions that care for these penguins. We send people to help out with large oil spills to clean penguins and get them back out to the wild. Occasionally, we will bring penguins into our facility that could no longer make it out in the wild. We have four: Roxy, Robbie, Kate and Avery.

Aquarium of the Pacific
100 Aquarium Way
Long Beach, CA 90802

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Charlotte is a fan of all things beauty, health, food, wellness, travel and a touch of nerdy fandom. She graduated with honors from the University of California, San Diego in Communications and English Literature and enjoys writing, looking at puppies on Instagram and drinking all the tea.


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