Skip to main content

Penguins get their paint on

Posted by: Rebecca Whitham, Communications

Photo by Kirsten Pisto/Woodland Park Zoo.

Flippers aren’t designed to hold paint brushes, so when zookeepers wanted to give our Humboldt penguins the chance to paint, we had to go kindergarten style and just get messy.

We held a painting session yesterday for penguin trio Mojito, Cortez and Ramón to produce artwork that will be available for purchase tomorrow at the Puget Sound - American Association of Zoo Keepers annual holiday auction.

Painting is a new form of enrichment for our penguins,though it is something we have done with other animals around the zoo for years. Asian elephant Chai has been painting for 13 years now, and her painting will also be available at the auction.

Chai paints inside the Elephant Barn. Photo by Caileigh Robertson/Woodland Park Zoo. Follow @woodlandparkzoo on Instagram.

Painting works as a great enrichment opportunity for animals like orangutans, bringing out their natural tool-user instincts, and elephants, playing to their skill at manipulating objects with their trunks. For penguins, the enrichment is less about using objects and more about connecting with the natural curiosity innate to penguins. These inquisitive birds can be fascinated by novel textures and experiences. The painting session also means quality time with their zookeeper, a highlight for yesterday's painting penguins.

Photo by Kirsten Pisto/Woodland Park Zoo.

The penguin and elephant paintings will be auctioned off tomorrow, November 16, at the Puget Sound - American Association of Zoo Keepers (PS-AAZK) annual holiday auction; auction preview and guaranteed bids run noon to 2:00 p.m., and the silent auction runs 4:00 to 8:00 p.m.

Proceeds from the paintings and other auction items support PS-AAZK, a 501(c)(3) non-profit volunteer organization composed of professional zookeepers employed by Woodland Park Zoo, and other people interested in promoting professional animal care and conservation worldwide.