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King Penguins Get 3D Printed Foot Protection for Morning Training Walks

The King Penguins are going through their annual molting phase again. Once the molting season running from April to May finishes, they will be ready to welcome the breeding season with a set of fresh feathers. To strengthen the King Penguins in preparation for the breeding season, the keepers at Taipei Zoo began taking them on a 30-minute “morning training walk” every morning from mid-April. The walks are intended to improve the chance of breeding through better fitness and strength. Several of the King Penguins are currently resting from the morning walks because their soles tend to get infected and grow warts. This year, the Zoo partnered with vendors to produce special protective booties for these King Penguins. The booties cover their medicated feet completely to prevent contamination by feces on the ground that make the infection even worse. We hope this will speed up their recovery so they can meet everyone again!
The King Penguins at Taipei Zoo begin molting between April and May every year. Once the molting season is over, the breeding season starts right away in June and July. To improve the breeding rate, keepers started taking the King Penguins on 30-minute “morning training walks” every day. Making the penguins walk more will hopefully boost their endurance and strength. At 9AM every morning, the King Penguins emerge punctually to walk around the activity spaces and the staff walkways with a keeper as their minder. The penguins will follow the “leading penguin” for a few circuits at first but start slowing down in the last 10 minutes. When they reach the mirror, which is their usual gathering place, they’d just stop to rest, pretend that the keeper is not there, or just stretch their necks out and squaw a complaint or two. When this happens, the keeper must play the tough love coach and urge the penguins to keep going in a soft voice. This helps the penguins finish the 30-minute “morning training walk” in full.
The penguins at the back have started molting already. They now have more feathers and walk more slowly. To keep the feathers they shed from clogging the filter circulation system, they will be taken in a few days to a dedicated “Changing Room.” Once they grow a new set of beautiful feathers they will be ready to welcome the all-important breeding season.
Though there are several molting King Penguins in the “Changing Room” out in the back, there are also several individuals that have developed warts on their soles due to infections. To shield their soles from direct ground contact and contamination by urine and feces, they currently live in the “Clinic.” The Zoo has also partnered with vendors to print custom “waterproof booties” for penguin feet. Wearing the booties keep water and dirt off their medicated feet. It also blocks out sewage, grime, and prevents re-infection. We hope this will help the two King Penguins speed up their recovery.
A 30-minute “Special Morning Walk” is conducted every morning before the breeding season. People can visit the Penguin House between 9:00 ~ 9:30 AM each day to see the penguins waddling along cutely with the zookeeper.