Local kids learn penguins' plight from Green Bean


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By BILLY LUDT

bludt@vindy.com

CANFIELD

Penguin At The Library

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An African Penguin made visit to the Youngstown Public Library.

A locally beloved species of flightless bird stopped in the Mahoning Valley for the enjoyment and education of area youths.

Green Bean, an African penguin, made her debut Friday at the Youngstown and Canfield libraries. The Wave Foundation from Newport Aquarium in Newport, Ky., brings aquatic life to libraries across the state for informational presentations.

Children who attended learned about the African penguin’s habitat, natural predators and physical attributes.

Rooms full of children lined up to touch Green Bean’s water-resistant coat of feathers.

“I love educating people with what I’m passionate about,” said Wave volunteer Savannah Weber. “Getting to share a penguin with kids who have never seen one and might not have the resources to go to a zoo or aquarium is great. And it’s necessary for people to realize how important conserving our environment is.”

A focus of the presentation was on the penguin’s endangered-species status.

The African penguin is native to South Africa. Its beach habitats are threatened by local vacationers, fishing and agricultural industries.

Buildings along the beaches and beachgoers have displaced the bird, leaving the animals unable to breed on swaths of beaches claimed by people.

Guano – excrement from the penguins – used to build the bird’s nest is harvested and used as fertilizer. Overfishing has left the penguins with fewer options for food.

“They actually eat more than any other animal in the aquarium,” Weber said.

Conservationists have designated parts of the South African coast as safe havens for the penguins, but their population is still an estimated 50,000. In the early 1900s, there were an estimated 1.5 million birds.

The Wave Foundation is composed mostly of volunteer staff members who conduct outreach via presentations, camps and job-shadow programs.

“We have a lot of great people that do a lot for us,” said Wave instructor Devin Magner.

Magner said preserving and educating the public about African penguins is a large part of the foundation’s focus.

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