Friday, April 25, 2008

Bonjour, Pierre


OpusPenguins are an odd duck. Well, they're not really a duck. They're a bird. A duck's a bird. But a duck isn't a penguin. Though a penguin can be an odd duck, just as long as you know he isn't one. A duck, that is. He's still a penguin, odd or not.

A penguin is a bird. And like birds, penguins have feathers. But a penguin's feathers are waterproof. That's convenient because they do tend to spend quite a bit of time plunging themselves into bodies of water in which to swim around in. So, the penguin relies on his waterproof feathers to keep him warm when he's in the cold water. Now, if you think of a penguin's feathers as being like his hair, then it will make a little more sense when I tell you that as penguins get older, they can go bald. In that way, the penguin is kind of like the human male, only the penguin has enough sense to not do the combover when he starts to go bald.

The problem with a balding penguin is that, obviously, he starts to lose those waterproof feathers. Then when he goes in the water, he realizes what the rest of us already know. It's like really freaking cold in that water! And the penguin isn't an idiot. It doesn't take long before a balding penguin realizes that without those feathers, that water is just too damn cold and he doesn't want to swim in it when it's that cold. Oh, he still wants to swim. But, like I said, he's not an idiot. He might be funny looking, being all bald, but he's not an idiot.

The "he" in this situation is Pierre, an African penguin residing at the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco. Pierre is 25 and most penguins live to be about 20 or so. Thus, Pierre is old and that is why he had lost his feathers which resulted in FBPB (Full Body Penguin Baldness). Behold! Pierre the Bald African Penguin!

Pierre the Bald Penguin
(That is one sad lookin' bird right there.) As I said, Pierre isn't an idiot and there was no way he was going in that cold water, even if it did mean not being able to swim with his other 19 penguin buddies. No, Pierre just stood and shivered on the sidelines. Well, until Pam Schaller, a senior aquatic biologist over there, wondered if a wetsuit would help Pierre. She had already tried heat lamps and that didn't do it. (I'm picturing a penguin buffet with warming lights.) But since wetsuits keep bald AND dumb humans fairly comfortable in the water, why not a penguin? Behold! A penguin wearing a wetsuit! Pierre the Penguin in his WetsuitPierre the Bald Penguin in His New WetsuitI guess the guys who make dive gear over there at Oceanic Worldwide in San Leandro were pretty stoked about being able to make a wetsuit for a penguin. They made him one all tailored specifically for his little waddling little body. And now he looks pretty sharp, for a penguin wearing a wetsuit. (The other penguins don't seem to mind. Or notice. Hard to say which it is.)

Pierre has had the suit about six weeks and he's pretty much back to being a regular penguin (in a wetsuit). He's gained some weight and he's even started to grow some feathers back. (Apparently, a wetsuit is like Rogaine for penguins. Who knew?) Now all he needs is a surfboard so he can join that surfing cat!

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