Penguins in the desert!!!
Sounds weird, isn't it?
Beg to differ... There are penguins living in the Sultanate of Oman, where there are no arctic or Antarctic islands or Southern Hemisphere!!
There are 12 African Penguins comprising 6 females and 5 males and a baby penguin at the Oman Aquarium at the Mall of Muscat in Mabela. Belonging to the Black Foot Penguin family, this colony of penguins is attracting a steady stream of visitors comprising elders as well as children every day from 10 am to 10 pm on weekdays and till 11 pm on weekends.
"I'm seeing these creatures for the first time in my life. Although small in size, they are as cute one can imagine and the most interesting part is that my children enjoyed the visit thoroughly," Abdussamad al Balushi, a visitor said.
African penguins originate from the rocky South-Western coast of Africa, and are considered to be an endangered species.
“We are proud to play an active role in the efforts to protect this endangered species and we are extremely thrilled to welcome the new member to the colony of penguins in Oman Aquarium,” says Mahmood Mohamed Ali al Jarwani, Chairman of Tamani Trading and Entertainment LLC, the Operator of Oman Aquarium.
The baby penguin was born at the first and only indoor public aquarium in the Sultanate on September 9, 2021. The world over, the birth of a Black Foot Penguin boosts the survival of this species.
"These cute animals are commonly referred to as 'Jackass' because their gawking sounds are similar to a donkey’s bray, and unique to each individual penguin," says Hermel Montero, animal trainer who is the chief of the animal care.
All these penguins might look very identical but they have a unique spots on their belly similar to our fingerprints, which helps caretakers differentiate between them.
Historically, African penguins are natural predators who mostly hunt fish. Their favourite food is Sardine fish and each penguin consumes an average of 3 to 8 Sardines a day. They take meals three times a day.
They do not grow taller than two feet an have webbed feet and legs that are set back on the body. The legs and tail are used like rudders for steering. Diving down to catch fish, African penguins can stay under water for as long as five minutes and can swim at an average rate of three to six mph (5-10 kph).
A team of four consisting, besides Hermel, Khalid Al Breiki, Aquarius, Nuwaier al Jalandani - Assistant animal trainer and Sumayya is on constant watch to care for these animals which needs proper care and attention.
"I'm fond of penguins and that love took me to work for them inside the Mall of Muscat and I enjoy educating the public about them," confesses Sumayya al Shehhi, educator.
A visit to the penguin zoo is nothing short of an immersive experience where one will get a close encounter with the penguins as they come out from time to time. Other times, they find themselves sitting, chatting and mating on the huge icicles at 18 degree celcius arranged inside the pen.