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Macaroni Gets Her Name, New Way to See Penguins

1/7/2010 10:16:54 AM

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE   Contact: Thom Benson 423-785-3007

Spicy new name chosen for Tennessee Aquarium Penguin
Did Someone Leave the Keeper Door Open?

Chattanooga, Tenn. (January 7, 2010) - The Tennessee Aquarium's first penguin chick now has a name - Pepper. And soon visitors might meet Pepper, or some of her other pals, up close during special penguin encounter programs.

Aviculturists who have been caring for the macaroni chick chose the winning name saying it fits her spicy personality. "She IS a pepper," said aviculturist Loribeth Aldrich. "She's energetic, unpredictable and feisty."

Pepper the penguinLooking at her today, many visitors might not get the impression that Pepper is a bold bird. Some have asked why she often stands by herself on a rock away from the other penguins. "It's not because the other penguins have cast her out. It's because she claimed that spot and won't let any of the other penguins stand there," Aldrich said.  That independent behavior led Aldrich and others to pick Pepper as the winning name from all of the other entries in the Aquarium’s naming contest. "I think Pepper is a fun name for her and seems to fit her Tomboy character," said Kevin Calhoon, the Aquarium's assistant curator of forests. Senior aviculturist Amy Graves agrees, "Pepper was the one name that just seemed to fit."
It took Tennessee Aquarium "election officials" quite awhile to review nearly 1,000 ballots cast in the penguin naming contest. Because she is a macaroni penguin, quite a few pasta and cheese-related entries came in like Ziti, Penne, Rotini and Velveeta. Others learned of her slap-happy nature and cast write-in votes for Slappy, Boom-Boom and Laila Ali.
One visitor from Nova Scotia, Canada submitted a numeric name. "#87 after Sidney Crosby from the Pittsburg Penguins, Stanley Cup Champs '09," wrote Carmello Gillis.
Another visitor suggested the Aquarium name the macaroni, "Stephanie Colbert," a tip of the hat to Comedy Central's Stephen Colbert.
In the end, four people entered the name Pepper in the contest. Glenn Carlson's name was selected at random and declared the winner. Carlson will enjoy a prize package including overnight accommodations at the Sheraton Read House and a family four pack of tickets to the Tennessee Aquarium, IMAX 3D Theater, River Gorge Explorer and Creative Discovery Museum for kids.
Visitors might not have to wait too long for another chance to vote for a gentoo or macaroni name. "The penguins will start courtship behavior again as spring approaches in March," said Calhoon. "Pepper will be a curious onlooker this season, but she may try to steal some rocks or pester a few of the other penguins while they're busy building nests."

Would you like to know more about Pepper’s personality and meet a macaroni or greet a gentoo in person?

The Tennessee Aquarium is offering a limited number of trips behind the scenes at Penguins’ Rock. An Aquarium aviculturist will begin each 30 minute experience by leading visitors to a private observation deck. While viewing the birds from above, guests will be able to quiz the expert about caring for these charismatic animals and individual penguin personalities. Next, visitors will get up close and personal when the keeper door opens. Usually Nipper, a gentoo, is the first through the door. Always looking for a fish to steal, he’s a crowd favorite, hamming it up for excited guests. But it could be Flower, Pepper or Shamrock greeting guests and posing for cameras.

Two penguin encounters will be offered per day at 11:00 a.m. and 1:00 p.m. on Saturdays from January 16th through February 27th. Each session is limited to six people, ages 5 and up. Cost is $15.00 per person in addition to Aquarium admission unless you're a member. For the animals’ safety, visitors will not be able to touch the birds. Behind-the-scenes tickets can be purchased at the Aquarium ticketing center or in advance at


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