Come on in. There’s something in the water! It’s a colony of black-footed penguins! These tuxedo-clad birds aren’t Antarctic/sub-Antarctic dwellers, but do come from a temperate region of southern Africa, so you won’t see any ice and snow in their home. In fact, it is usually a pleasant 70º in their exhibit. Walking on through the building, there’s more in the water – a big tank of cichlid fish. Behind the tank of fish, tortoises can be seen prowling. Weavers, turacos, plovers and African gray parrots enjoy the space along with a pair of rock hyrax. And there is a glimpse of what’s to come as an African lion is seen through the glass wall…
The rock hyrax (also called dassie) is a small animal (only 8-9 pounds and 7-12 inches tall) that looks like a rodent. But looks are deceiving, because the hyrax is actually a distant relative to the elephant! It has a pair of prominent, long, pointed upper incisors that are reminiscent of elephant tusks and has similar leg and foot bones. The hyrax also has flattened nails that bear a resemblance to hooves.
The rock hyrax lives in Africa, preferring areas with cover. It will live under, in or between rocky crevices and can even dig its own burrow. When threatened, the hyrax will use its teeth as a weapon. This little creature has rather poor thermoregulation since its body temperature can vary with air temperatures. Often a group of hyrax will huddle together for warmth and will stay inside if it is raining.
The black-footed penguin is from a temperate region of southern Africa and is Africa's only endemic penguin.
Like all penguins this one is specifically built to “fly” underwater. It uses its flippers for propulsion, flapping them in unison just as birds that fly through the air use their wings. The webbed feet and tail are used as rudders, and the small overlapping feathers help reduce drag without losing insulation against the cold waters. Even that torpedo body shape helps it glide through the water.
The black-footed penguin eats fish, some squid and some small crustaceans. This bird only eats underwater except here at Caldwell Zoo where our little spoiled penguins have learned that they can stand on shore and have their zookeepers put fish right into their mouths.
Special note: Come see our penguins being fed every day at 2:00 p.m.