SCOTTSDALE, AZ — Rosie, an African penguin, might be small in stature, but the penguin brought out big smiles and laughs from a group of children who were eager to meet the bird on Tuesday.
When Rosie hatched at Odysea Aquarium in 2019, the penguin had some difficulty sitting up on its own. X-rays confirmed that Rosie had some skeletal abnormalities.
"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," said Jessica Peranteau, the OdySea Aquarium Director of Animal Control and Education.
So, Odysea's animal care team created a penguin-sized "jump-a-roo" to help strengthen the muscles in Rosie's legs. Since then, the penguin has returned to its family and now acts as an animal ambassador to inspire others.
On Tuesday, Rosie met with a group of children who have navigated unique challenges of their own, including autism, cerebral palsy and other developmental disabilities.
Rosie's unique waddle stole the crowd's heart.
"You can see her unique shuffle, and how she has learned to adapt," Peranteau said.
Rosie's short shuffle might slow the penguin compared to its friends, but like the children in the room, Rosie differences make the penguin truly special.
"It's pretty cool, pretty unique," one child said.
A little bird can teach everyone a few lessons about resilience in the face of adversity — lessons the children and parents gathered Tuesday certainly took to heart.
"She can do anything the rest of the penguins can do, just in her own way," one parent said. "It's a wonderful mindset for our kids."
This story was originally published by Cameron Polom on Scripps station KNXV in Phoenix.