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Check out these new duds: Pierre, bottom, models for his mate, Homey.
Check out these new duds: Pierre, bottom, models for his mate, Homey. (By Eric Risberg -- Associated Press)
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Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Surfer Look Keeps Penguin in the Swim

· It happens to some older men, and it happened recently to a very old penguin in California: He started going bald.

But in Pierre the penguin's case, it wasn't his head that was losing feathers, it was his bottom.

Since penguins rely on their waterproof feathers for warmth, losing some made Pierre unwilling to jump in the penguin tank at the California Academy of Sciences. Instead, he stood on the sidelines and shivered.

"He was cold; he would shake," said Pam Schaller, an aquatic biologist at the academy.

At first she used a heat lamp to warm Pierre, a 25-year-old African penguin. Then she had a better idea: make him a wetsuit like the ones surfers and divers wear.

A dive-supply company outfitted Pierre with a specially tailored suit that covers his torso and has slits for his flippers.

The 19 other penguins at the center accepted Pierre's sleek new look, so he was quickly back in the swim of things.

Since getting the wetsuit about six weeks ago, Pierre has gained weight and -- surprisingly -- grown back feathers on his pale, pink bottom. So now he is able to swim in the buff again.

See You Soon, Alligator

· The skeleton of a 1,000-pound alligator that prowled Okefenokee Swamp for decades will go on display there soon.

The 14-foot-long gator, named Oscar, died last year at the Georgia wildlife refuge.

Oscar was thought to be 95 to 100 years old. His bones indicate that he survived at least three bullet wounds, a shotgun blast to the face, some broken bones and arthritis.

Oscar's display will include what park officials found in his belly. Among the items: a plastic dog collar, a dog's tag, a penny and the top of a flagpole.


© 2008 The Washington Post Company

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