Recently, a short YouTube clip showing the foiled escape attempt of a group of penguins in Odense Zoo, Denmark, has been promoted as “funny” and “cute” on a number of different video-sharing websites. In an eerie recreation of the popular childrens’ film, Penguins of Madagascar, the video records the birds’ efforts to run from their enclosure, before being stopped by a zookeeper who noticed the footprints they had left behind them.
However, the reality of these penguins’ situation is far from cute. Humboldt penguins hail from South America and are naturally adapted to a climate that differs considerably from the cold environment of Denmark. The distinct torpedo shape of their bodies enables them to travel great distances in the water and dive to a depth of up to 150 feet, though their average dive is around 60 feet. They are also known to be a highly sociable species, and even have unique calls that they use to address specific family members.
In captivity, the penguins are unable to exercise these natural instincts to the same degree.
It is not the first time that a member of this species has made a high-profile escape attempt. Back in 2012, a Humboldt penguin bred at the Kasai Rinkai Aquarium in Tokyo, Japan, made headlines around the world when he confounded zoo authorities by escaping from captivity … despite the fact that he was a flightless bird, who had been trapped in an enclosure with 134 other Humboldt penguins. He managed to thrive on his own in Tokyo Bay for eighty-two days before being recaptured. He was subsequently named Sazanami, marking a positive change from his previous name of Number 337.
While the penguins above were foiled in their heartbreakingly futile attempt to break free, hopefully, the video will cause some viewers to question the wisdom of holding these birds prisoner.