Paralyzed Penguin Recovering Well At Newport Aquarium

Apr 26, 2018

A penguin at the Newport Aquarium is recovering well thanks to physical therapy for a hole in its spinal cord.

The aquarium discovered Victoria, a Macaroni penguin, unable to walk in its Penguin Palooza exhibit in February 2017. At first, keepers thought the animal's back might be broken, but X-rays ruled that out. Eventually they discovered a pin-sized hole in her spinal cord that was affecting her nerves.

Victoria the penguin undergoes a CT scan.
Credit Provided / Newport Aquarium

Treatment includes daily physical therapy and water therapy. "She's the one swimming in circles in the exhibit, as she makes progress on her left foot," the aquarium writes on its blog. "She now has full control of her right foot." She's also able to prop herself up, and keepers say her mental health appears positive.

Victoria recently lost all her feathers during the molting process. In order to keep her cool, staff set up a special ice bath.

"When they molt, they get hot, like physically hot," says senior biologist Dan Clady. "That's a natural condition normal in their native cold environment. Victoria went through her molt in early March, which is different than most birds because while other birds only shed a few feathers at a time, penguins shed all of their feathers at once."