A Labor of Love Helps a Very Important Penguin Return Home

VIDEO: Watch Dottie and Stan make their return to Penguin Point!

(Pittsburgh, Penn.) June 11, 2020 – A small penguin made a big splash when she returned home to Penguin Point at the National Aviary this week. With a waddle, hop, and a splash, Dottie, an endangered African Penguin, and her mate Stanley, returned after a months-long absence to a chorus of calls and brays from the members of their colony in Penguin Point. National Aviary staff stood by to take in this special moment, which back in October when Dottie fell ill, had seemed so far off.

In October, the National Aviary’s team noticed a change in Dottie’s behavior. The normally friendly and sweet African Penguin was suddenly weak, unable to stand and experiencing labored breathing. She was immediately admitted to the National Aviary’s intensive care unit, where she received oxygen and emergency treatments. Specialized tests revealed the source of Dottie’s symptoms: pneumonia, and a mass in her chest.

In the face of this stunning diagnosis, a team of experts in veterinary care, penguin behavior, and husbandry was formed to collaborate on her care. Human-grade antibiotics and nebulizers, respiratory medicines, oxygen treatments, and intensive nursing brought Dottie through the worst of her illness. She received nebulizer treatments every four hours, twice-daily medications, and daily fluids. Dottie regained her strength, overcame setbacks, and made strides towards a recovery.

Penguins are colony birds, used to living in close proximity. The National Aviary’s team knew that beyond needing intensive physical care, Dottie needed companionship to make a full recovery.

Cue the arrival of Stanley (named for the Stanley Cup), Dottie’s life-long companion and one of the National Aviary’s four original African Penguins.

“At first, Stan came for one-hour visits in the ICU each day, which was all Dottie could manage in her weakened state. As Dottie regained her strength, the visits became longer and longer, and eventually Stan moved in to the ICU,” said Dr. Pilar Fish, the National Aviary’s Director of Zoological Advancement and Veterinary Medicine. “Stan worked in tandem with the team who visited throughout the day to encourage Dottie to eat. While our penguin experts would feed Dottie, Stan would sit right next to her, vocalizing and grooming her. When Stan ate, Dottie would take a bite.”

Stan’s full-time presence with Dottie in the ICU, coupled with the intensive care she received from National Aviary staff, helped Dottie recover and heal, leading up to today, when she and Stan took the leap to rejoin their colony at Penguin Point. They immediately made their way back to their usual spot, reclaiming their cave carved into the rocks of Penguin Point. Dottie and Stanley fell right back into stride with their old routines, clearly enjoying being back home among their colony after a long journey to recovery.

“Dottie’s recovery is a miracle that largely happened behind the scenes, and this happy moment, watching her dive into the water at Penguin Point, is the result of prioritizing both her physical health and emotional wellbeing,” said Dr. Fish. “From our incredible veterinary team, to our penguin experts bringing Stanley to be at Dottie’s side, to the members of our extended Aviary family who donated to help ensure Dottie received the highest possible level of care, Dottie’s recovery was possible through many acts of caring and generosity at each stage.”

The National Aviary’s state-of-the-art avian hospital provides high-level, comprehensive care for all birds. The National Aviary will share the information gleaned from Dottie’s recovery with wildlife centers and zoos around the world to help other penguins recover from illness.

Visitors can see Dottie, Stanley, and the rest of the penguin colony when the National Aviary reopens to the public on July 1. Visit aviary.org to learn more about the National Aviary’s safe reopening plan.

During its closure, the National Aviary launched an Emergency Relief Efforts campaign, sponsored by UPMC Health Plan, which helped the Aviary to overcome significant financial losses due to the loss of funding from admissions, education and other core programs.  These funds helped the National Aviary to continue providing medical care, food, husbandry, and trainings during the prolonged shutdown, and played an important role in ensuring Dottie’s full recovery. However, as significant capacity limits continue to inhibit program funding, individual support will continue to be needed for the National Aviary to thrive. Support can be directed to continuing these efforts at aviary.org/make-a-donation.


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About the National Aviary:

The National Aviary is America’s only independent indoor nonprofit zoo dedicated to birds, and was recently named Pennsylvania’s Best Zoo according to Yelp reviewers. Located in Allegheny Commons Park on Pittsburgh’s historic Northside, the National Aviary’s diverse collection comprises 500 birds representing more than 150 species from around the world, many of them threatened or endangered in the wild. The National Aviary’s large walk-through habitats create an intimate, up-close interaction between visitors and free-flying birds, including opportunities to hand-feed and to meet many species rarely found in zoos anywhere else in the world. For more information, visit www.aviary.org.

The National Aviary inspires respect for nature through an appreciation of birds.

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