OdySea trainers engineer device to help baby penguin overcome defect
PHOENIX – A penguin at OdySea Aquarium in Scottsdale has a new lease on life after overcoming a birth defect with help from a device engineered by trainers.
Rosie, an 8-month-old African penguin with physical disabilities, underwent months of physical therapy to correct a skeletal deformity.
Typically, the animal care team take a hands-off approach to allow parents, Mojo and Lemieux, to take care of their new chick; however, they do complete regular “chick checks.”
During one of these checkups, the team noticed Rosie was unable to sit up on her own and her feet were misaligned.
The team installed cameras in the nest to observe the parents’ behavior. They discovered other penguins were crowding the nest, which the team believed was a result of being first-time parents.
“Our fear was that in their attempt to protect and incubate their baby, they were inhibiting Rosie’s ability to move about the nest area on her own and appropriately develop,” Jessica Peranteau, director of Animal Care and Education, said in a press release.
The team fashioned a penguin version of a baby jump-a-roo out of PVC piping and a baby onesie to help strengthen her core muscles and improve her balance.
Rosie progressed past the jump-a-roo to taking short daily walks with the sling alongside trainers. By mid-February, she was able to sit upright on her own and take a few steps without the assistance of trainers. From there, her therapy progressed to include water therapy and supervised swims.
“She now swims on her own and has navigated the easier exit points of the pool to get out without assistance,” Peranteau said. “She seems to really love the water and the socialization with other penguins that swimming brings
Rosie was the 9th chick to hatch at OdySea and the 39th penguin to join the habitat at the facility’s exhibit.
OdySea closed in March amid the coronavirus pandemic across the state, but they reopened in mid-May with heightened safety measures.