Thursday, January 25, 2007

Three coins in a penguin

So who's dumber:

Visitors to the Denver Zoo have been tossing coins into the ponds, believing they are wishing wells.

But two of the ponds are home to the zoo's 26 penguins--13 Humboldts and 13 Africans--who can't pass up a good meal, believing the shiny coins are shiny fish scales.

The penguins have been eating the coins, which can cause a fatal zinc poisoning once the digestion starts.

Penguins. But only a little.

Pennies made after 1978 are especially bad for the penguins because they have zinc cores with copper coatings. Pennies made before 1978 are pure copper.

Veterinarians have been busy removing the coins surgically, and found 71 cents in one particularly hungry penguin.

Probably trying to quit smoking.

They use an endoscope with a small net attached to it to scoop the coins out of the penguins' stomachs. The endoscope also has a camera and a light at the end to help doctors find the coins.

Stories like this are why I support Newspapers in Education!

Swallowing the coins has become such a frequent problem that zookeepers now routinely run the birds through metal detectors looking for ingested coins.

"This is a common problem for the penguins," said veterinarian Dr. Felicia Knightly. "Penguins cannot tell the difference between the shiny metallic coins on the bottom and fish. Ingestion of the coins can result in zinc toxicosis, which can be fatal."

Happy feet, tiny, tiny brains. The only reason I mention the story is that the Post has a penguin surgery slideshow. Everybody loves those.

Update: Teachers! Ask your kids how many different combinations of coins they can come up with to equal the 71 cents Dr. Felicia Knightly pulled out of the deflated penguin!

(credits: Dr. Felicia Knightly (1) from some site that probably left viruses all over my computer; Dr. Felicia Knightly (2) is actually "Nurse, not dated," by Lawrence Carmichael Earle. Don't know why she wouldn't date him; he was quite attractive)

No comments: