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Families Invited to Make Strides for Penguins During Mystic Aquarium’s Fun Run

13TH Annual Run/Walk for the Penguins Scheduled for Oct. 19

Mystic, Conn. (October 9, 2019): On Saturday, October 19, 2019, Mystic Aquarium will host its annual Run/Walk for the Penguins. Now in its thirteenth year, the 5k run and 3k walk helps benefit Mystic Aquarium’s mission programs including the conservation efforts of endangered African penguin populations.

The African penguin, while one of the most popular species at Mystic Aquarium, is also at the highest risk of extinction in the animal kingdom. The wild population of African penguins has declined by 70% over the past 10 years.

Registration for the event is available by visiting MysticAquarium.org.  Prizes will be awarded for the top fundraisers. For the first time in the race’s history, beautiful penguin-themed medals will be awarded to all race participants.

This is a family-friendly event. Strollers and dogs are welcome (walkers only).

Vehicles from Stonington Police and Mystic Ambulance will add to the family atmosphere of this fun event. All race participants will also receive complimentary admission to the Aquarium on race day.

Event check-in opens at 7:30am on Saturday, October 19 in the event tent located at the Milne Ocean Science and Conservation Center on the Mystic Aquarium campus. The Run/Walk gets underway at 9:00am. The fan-favorite kid’s race starts at approximately 10:15am and is followed immediately by the awards ceremony.

The annual event attracts a diverse crowd of over 600 families and students, walkers and competitive runners. While running enthusiasts often set a blistering pace on race day, this family-fun run has become a mainstay for active families with a heart for conservation.

The success of the annual Run/Walk for the Penguins allows Mystic Aquarium to stand at the forefront of engaging global efforts toward saving the African penguin in the wild.

“Thanks to the incredible supporters and their participation in events like the annual Run/Walk for the Penguins, I have been able to fulfill my childhood dream to care for and protect penguins,” said Senior Trainer, Josh Davis. “Not only do I get to educate children and adults alike about the magnificent animals I care for every day but on multiple occasions I have traveled to South Africa to help rehabilitate rescued penguins for release back into their habitat.”

Mystic Aquarium engages in a myriad of outreach including research, field conservation, collaboration with our international colleagues and breeding programs, as well as focusing on public awareness and engagement programs.

“It’s all because of  the wonderful friends of the Aquarium that I get to care for animals here and across the globe,” continued Davis.

Josh and his fellow penguin care specialists will be available for meet and greets under the event tent. There will also be penguin photo opps with species ambassadors and mascot Petey the Penguin. Participants to the annual Run/Walk for the Penguins will also enjoy refreshments, including complimentary slices from Buon Appetito Ristorante & Pizzeria and scoops from Friendly’s Ice Cream.

Massage and stretching tables are available before and after the race.

The festivities continue long after the last participant crosses the finish line. The specially-themed penguin enrichment session gets underway at 11:15am in the Foxwoods Marine Theater.  At the Penguin Pavilion exhibit, guests can experience a penguin feed at 1:30pm and a penguin enrichment swim at 2:30pm.

Listed as endangered in 2010, the African penguin continues to face serious threats from climate change, over fishing, oil spills and plastic pollution. It is estimated that there are only 22,000 breeding pairs left in the world.

By sending staff yearly to South African to work with Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds (SANCCOB), Mystic Aquarium is helping with the chick bolstering project, research population monitoring and even oil spill cleanup.  Mystic Aquarium has been caring for African penguins for nearly 30 years with leading roles in the African Penguin Species Survival Plan® (SSP) and AZA’s Saving Animals from Extinction (SAFE); two critically important conservation programs that seek to ensure the survival of this endangered species.

“We even study poop,” said Tracy Camp, Supervisor of Assistant Supervisor- Penguins, of ongoing research efforts by Mystic Aquarium’s conservation researcher Dr. Maureen Driscoll.

This sampling is a noninvasive technique that can be applied to a variety of situations where traditional blood sampling is not feasible and can be used to measure chronic stress in many wildlife populations.  The ultimate goal, says Driscoll, is to be able to apply these methods to wild penguin colonies to assess colony health.

Mystic Aquarium’s mission of conservation, education and research, like that being done with the endangered African penguin,  has been inspiring millions of people to care for and protect the ocean environment.  Now, through a partnership with the Connecticut Department of Motor Vehicles, a specialty license plate has been designed to help bring recognition to the this local icon and their important mission of ocean conservation.  Featuring an African penguin and the powerful “Protect our Oceans” slogan, the new plates have a unique look that is truly eye catching and includes a meaningful message as well. To learn more visit MysticAquarium.org/LicensePlate. “We hope that families will come out in force to support our efforts and have a ton of family fun with us too,” added Camp.

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