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How Rosie, an African penguin at Odysea Aquarium, is inspiring kids with disabilities

Rosie African penguin Odysea Aquarium
Posted at 4:44 PM, Jan 25, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-26 08:13:21-05

SCOTTSDALE, AZ — Rosie, a small African penguin, might be small in stature, but she brought out big smiles and laughs from a group of children who were eager to meet her on Tuesday.

Turns out, when Rosie hatched at Odysea Aquarium in 2019, she had some difficulty sitting up on her own and her feet with misalignment. X-rays confirmed that she had some skeletal abnormalities.

But, with a little help from her care team, they created a penguin-sized "jump-a-roo" to help strengthen the muscles in her legs. Since then, she's returned to her family and now acts as an animal ambassador to inspire others.

On Tuesday, Rosie met a group of children who have navigated unique challenges of their own, either autism, cerebral palsy, or other developmental disabilities.

“We knew very early in Rosie’s development that she was a little bit different,” Jessica Peranteau, the OdySea Aquarium Director of Animal Control and Education, told the children.

“Penguins are able to sit up on their own when they get ready to start to walk, but Rosie was not showing us she could do that on her own,” she said.

“So, we decided as a team, we needed to give her a little bit of help,” she added.


Now, two years old, it’s her unique waddle stealing everyone’s heart.

“You can see her unique shuffle, and how she has learned to adapt,” said Peranteau.

Her short shuffle might slow her compared to her penguin friend, "Sedona," but like the children in the room, her differences make her truly special.

“It’s pretty cool, pretty unique,” one child said.

A little bird, teaching all of us a few lessons about resilience in the face of adversity. Lessons these children and their parents are certainly taking to heart.

“She can do anything the rest of the penguins can do, just in her own way,” said one parent. “It’s a wonderful mindset for our kids.”