Visitors to Penguin Encounter in San Diego Find a Delight in Black and White

updated 09/05/1983 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 09/05/1983 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Question: Why is it that when E.P., the first emperor penguin hand-raised in captivity, sees Frank S. Todd, a person, he rushes over and stands on Todd's feet?

Answer: In the wild, the female emperor penguin leaves her egg on the tootsies of the male. Then Mom heads off to chow down, while Pop stands there for the two-month incubation period with egg on his feet. Once the egg is hatched, Junior goes for Mom's toes (or in E.P.'s case, Frank S. Todd's), while Pop grabs a bite or two in an attempt to regain the up-to-50 percent of his body weight lost during the past two months. "And we think we invented Woman's Lib," snorts Todd.

This is the kind of information one can observe firsthand in only two places in the entire world—Antarctica and Penguin Encounter, a kind of singles bar for penguins which has opened under Todd's direction at San Diego's Sea World. The $7 million facility is now the home away from home for some 350 penguins of seven different species. Since May, more than a million enchanted humans have witnessed this potpourri of penguinhood. Most frequently asked question about the bird that walks like a slightly tipsy headwaiter: "Are you sure they aren't really feathered fish?"

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