by Ethan Stewart
Arguably the world’s most popular flightless bird had its coming-out party at the Santa Barbara Zoo last week. After about seven weeks in quarantine, nine Humboldt penguins made their first public appearance last Friday to mark the official opening of the new Crawford Family Penguin House. Native to the relatively temperate waters of southern South America, the threatened birds (there are fewer than 12,000 breeding pairs worldwide) have taken up residence in the former pool and faux-rock walls that Cubby the California sea lion once called home. While Cubby was shipped to Texas to live with sea lions displaced by Hurricane Katrina, the Humboldts arrived by bus from Sea World in San Diego. According to zoo officials, plans are underway to bring in five more penguins by July and five Inca terns later this month. A cool $10,000 donation affords you naming rights on Santa Barbara’s newest species; several of the birds already embrace new identities such as Pee-gloo, Chadster, Bling, and Tom and Nancy, with the latter honoring exhibit sponsors Tom and Nancy Crawford.