1. Secret #1: Diversity
Meet penguin couple In-Guza and Plum Pudding. These African penguins were carefully selected to be paired based on genetic diversity. The Aquarium’s African penguin breeding program is part of a Species Survival Plan that requires keeping the gene pool healthy.
2. Secret #2: Matchmaking
In this photo you can see penguin couple Beach Donkey and Halifax. They were carefully selected as pairs and placed together at the Aquarium. You can tell because their bracelets are the same color. Every two years, members of the African penguin Species Survival Plan get together and rank penguins based on desirable genes. Then they assign penguin pairs, like these two, to different institutions.
3. Secret #3: Flirting
So now they’r paired off… but do the penguin couples like each other? Penguins have the same problem as people – how do you know if he or she might be interested? If they are OK being in the same area, that is a positive start. If a penguin, turns its head to the side and then puffs up its cheeks, that is a slight signal. If this escalates to head shaking, they are definitely interested. A little vocalization might follow, and it could be capped with the African penguin’s signature donkey bray. If this behavior is done mutually and repeatedly, biologists call it an “ecstatic display.” Now moving beyond flirting to dating.
4. Secret #4: Alone Time
Once a penguin pair has been selected, they are placed in a private, romantic getaway where they can get to know each other better. This behind-the-scenes area lets aquarists watch the penguins closely to make sure they’re getting along as well as expected.
5. Secret #5: Monogomy (In General)
This video produced by the Boston Globe highlights some of the Aquarium’s most successful penguin pairs. In general, penguin are monogamous. Even though they don’t necessarily mate for life, one of the couples (Mosselbaai and Jutten) in this video has been together for 20 years!