Last week, Mr. Malice had to travel to Cincinnati for certification in (something-something) high voltage (something-something) motors and capacitors. (Honestly, I try to pay attention to the minutae of his work, but at some point during the science-speak my eyes always glaze over and I start thinking about something else altogether...usually, how cute he is when he goes full-on nerd.) Anyway, because we haven't had much alone time lately, we decided that I'd go with him and we'd extend the trip a day so we could stop by the nearby aquarium in Newport, KY. I LOVE the Newport Aquarium because they keep penguins, shark rays, sting rays, and otters--all of which I have a weird affection for--and they do so in a humane, ethical manner, which is the most important thing. They have very successful breeding programs too, so they're helping save endangered animals, not just making money off them. All in all, it's a really positive experience whenever we go, and I was really looking forward to it. What I didn't know until shortly before we arrived was that that sneaky bugger Mr. Malice had bought tickets to the aquarium's "Penguin Experience," a deal where you get to go behind the scenes and actually interact with the penguins! It was incredible!!! I know I'm using a lot of exclamation marks here, but... Holy shit, guys, I got to pet actual, real, live, penguins!!!
This is Strawberry, one of several penguins we met, after she'd taken a dip in the pool.
Although the aquarium sells up to 30 tickets per event, we got lucky and there were only three of us on this particular tour. Because participants are forbidden to initiate contact in order to protect the penguins' safety, the amount of interaction you have with the birds is completely up to them. The guide warned us that, if they didn't want anything to do with us, we'd just have to suck it up and go home at least knowing our ticket fare helps pay for an endangered species fund. However, having so few of us there really seemed to put the penguins at ease. I took this picture of Sandy with my phone when she was just a few feet away from me. She was definitely the alpha of the group, and the first to approach us.
Strawberry enjoying the pool again.
Another shot from my phone, this time of Green Bean playing with her handler... All the penguins in this meet-and-greet program are females whose respective lineages are over-represented in the gene pool. Since they can't be used in the breeding program, these penguins act as goodwill ambassadors to the public.
I still have several pictures to post, and this entry is already quite image-heavy, so I'll blather on about these adorable, flightless babies tomorrow. Thanks for bearing with me.