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Woodland Park Zoo penguins are unique, have 'penguinalities,' keeper says

Woodland Park Zoo has over 50 species of birds, including Humboldt penguins. #k5evening

SEATTLE — One man at Woodland Park Zoo knows firsthand how spending time around birds can impact people’s overall wellbeing. 

John Samaras is a lead animal keeper at the Woodland Park Zoo. One of his responsibilities is taking care of the Humboldt penguins.

Samaras feeds the penguins, ensuring they get enough proteins, vitamins and nurturance. He also watches over incubating eggs and their habitat.

“The first time I met a penguin and started taking care of them, it was just instant love,” said Samaras. “Each one is just unique in just its little penguinality.”

Samaras said it's an amazing experience working with the penguins, especially when the birds are young and need to be reared. 

In the wild, Humboldt penguins live along the coasts of Peru and Chile in the southeastern Pacific Ocean, according to the Center for Biological Diversity. They face threats, such as changing ocean temperatures due to climate change, commercial fishing and oil pollution. The center estimated extinction was likely within 100 years based on a 1998 population analysis.

Penguins aren’t the only birds visitors will find at the zoo. Woodland Park Zoo has over 50 species of birds that can be seen throughout the zoo, including the African savanna, tropical rain forest, and raptor center. Samaras said that includes a new heron that visitors can see in the penguin exhibit.

The zoo also uses birds as part of its educational programming. Visitors can meet the birds during programs at the zoo’s theater. Twelve different birds are currently used in the programs, including a turkey vulture, a red-tailed hawk, and a spectacled owl.

Although penguins are not native to Washington, there are a plethora of birds at the zoo that are local to the state. 


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