Story and photos by BEN GRAFTON
At high noon, Saturday, Aug. 10, Cranberry the African Black-footed Penguin and her escort, Rachel Cain of the Gulfarium, presented a captivating program to a nice-sized audience at the E.O. Wilson Biophilia Center just east of Freeport on SR-20.
After an introduction by Director Paul Arthur, Cain, while standing in a wire enclosure with the penguin, told the audience about penguins in general and Cranberry in particular. She said that many penguins – but by no means all – live in Antarctica. Cranberry, for example is native to the shores of south Africa. They are highly adapted for life in the water, where they live almost half of their lives. They feed on small fish which they catch by high speed swimming using wings that have evolved into flippers. And the Black-footed Penguin is sometimes called the Jackass Penguin because it brays like a donkey.
Emperor Penguins, nearly 4 four feet tall and weighing 75 pounds or more, are the largest of the modern penguin breeds. Male Black-footed Penguins can weigh up to 8 pounds and stand up to 28 inches tall. Cranberry, by comparison, weighs about 5 pounds and is about 16 inches tall.
Then, to the delight of the children, Cain took Cranberry from the enclosure and released her on the floor. Cranberry showed right away that she was not intimidated by people as, followed by the children, she went exploring into the audience and under chairs where she examined feet and checked out shoelaces.