A line of well-wishers paraded through the Moody Gardens Aquarium Pyramid on Thursday to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the King penguins in the South Atlantic Penguin Exhibit. People wearing party hats and waving streamers sang “Happy Birthday” as they watched the penguins celebrate with non-toxic bubbles and their own fish-filled cake.
Laura Roeder and her three children, Matthew, Colton and Harper, even made birthday cards for the penguins.
“The penguins are one of our favorite exhibits,” she said.
Twenty of the King penguins at the aquarium are part of the original group of 49 hatched from eggs collected during a 1998 expedition to South Georgia Island, in the southern Atlantic Ocean about 500 miles north of Antartica.
The penguins have been part of a breeding exchange program with other accredited institutions through the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. In the 20 years since arriving at the aquarium in Galveston, the penguins have successfully hatched 16 new King penguin chicks.
Diane Olsen, Moody Gardens’ assistant curator of seals and penguins, has been a part of the penguin program since the beginning. She met the expedition team at the airport to help transport the eggs back to the aquarium. One thing she’s learned over the years is “they stink, but they’re awfully damn cute,” she said.