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Love bird penguins make a splash at Portland Zoo

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Luna, one of a bonded pair of Humboldt penguins, arrived at the Oregon Zoo. Photo by Michael Durham, courtesy of the Oregon Zoo.

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Milo, one of a bonded pair of Humboldt penguins, arrived at the Oregon Zoo. Photo by Michael Durham, courtesy of the Oregon Zoo.

PORTLAND — A smartly dressed young couple has moved in at the Oregon Zoo just in time for Valentine’s Day. Two young Humboldt penguins, Luna and Milo, arrived last month from the Roger Williams Park Zoo in Providence, R.I., and have now joined the 16 other penguins in the zoo’s penguinarium.

Luna means “moon” in Spanish, and the younger Milo, who turned 2 on Jan. 10, seems over the moon for her — following Luna around, forfeiting his fish to her, and generally taking on a submissive role. The two new penguins are a bonded pair, but keepers aren’t expecting any nesting activity from them this year as they’re still settling in.

Visitors can see the birds starting Feb. 14, waddling over the rocky terrain and darting through the clear water of the zoo’s penguinarium. The popular exhibit reopened to the public in November, following a much-needed upgrade of its water-filtration system, one of many sustainability improvements funded by the community-supported 2008 zoo bond measure. The upgrade saves 7 million gallons of water each year.

Humboldt penguins (Spheniscus humboldti), which live along the South American coastline off of Peru and Chile, are classified as “vulnerable” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, and in 2010 were granted protection under the U.S. Endangered Species Act. Of the world’s 17 penguin species, Humboldts are the most at risk, threatened by overfishing of their prey species, entanglement in fishing nets, and breeding disruption due to commercial removal of the guano deposits where the penguins lay their eggs. Their population is estimated at 12,000 breeding pairs.

The zoo is a service of Metro and is dedicated to its mission of inspiring the community to create a better future for wildlife. Committed to conservation, the zoo is currently working to save endangered California condors, Oregon silverspot and Taylor’s checkerspot butterflies, western pond turtles and Oregon spotted frogs. Other projects include studies on Asian elephants, polar bears, orangutans and giant pandas. The zoo relies in part on community support through donations to the Oregon Zoo Foundation to undertake these and many other animal welfare, education and sustainability programs.

The zoo opens at 10 a.m. daily and is located five minutes from downtown Portland, just off Highway 26. The zoo is also accessible by MAX light rail line. Visitors who travel to the zoo via MAX receive $1.50 off zoo admission. Call TriMet Customer Service, 503-238-RIDE (7433), or visit www.trimet.org for fare and route information.

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