Pepe is a people penguin.
Hand-raised since he hatched, the 5-month-old Humboldt penguin is an unofficial ambassador at Brookfield Zoo’s The Living Coast. A curious little bird, he’s eager to check out people, watch the other birds in the exhibit and chase flies while zookeepers answer questions.
Zookeepers also are eager to talk about the conservation work taking place in Peru, where the Chicago Zoological Society vice president of clinical medicine, Dr. Michael Adkesson, is conducting research with the Humboldt penguin population at the Punta San Juan Reserve.
In the wild, the decline in Humboldt penguin populations has reached crisis proportions, with populations plummeting over the years from an estimated hundreds of thousands of animals a hundred years ago to 20,000 to 50,000 today, the zoo says.
“By getting kids excited about Pepe, we hopefully get them excited about supporting our conservation work down there,” says Tim Snyder, curator of birds for the Chicago Zoological Society.
He says Pepe’s appearances are not scheduled but do occur several times a week in the exhibit’s Rocky Shores habitat.