"Each of them has a different personality," said zookeeper Kelley Dinsmore, pointing to Amashi, unpretentiously, and to the very social Cupid.
Dinsmore and his fellow zookeepers know these penguins as if they were a family, and the African variety at the Como Zoo knows the meaning of the family for themselves.
Unlike the well-known emperor penguin, with the father who takes care of the egg while the mother hunts, his African cousins are a little more modern.
"Usually, both females and males raise a girl together," Dinsmore said. “They take turns getting food and taking care of the chicks and sitting on the eggs. They form very strong couple bonds. "
Almost everyone stays with a partner for the season. A partner for life.
Why it is not so poetic: it is only how they have evolved.
"And probably what has a lot to do with that, is raising your offspring," Dinsmore said. "You know, you'll have one, maybe two eggs, but usually an egg, and you're raising a chick. You want that girl to survive to keep up with the species.
That instinct has proven to be more challenging every year. African penguins are in danger of extinction, partly due to overfishing of their food, partly due to climate change and partly due to the reason why Dinsmore got involved.
"They went from 80,000 breeding pairs 30 years ago, to now 25,000 breeding pairs in the wild," Dinsmore said. "So their numbers are not going up."
Como penguins do not breed. Dinsmore calls them ambassadors of the species, helping an animal that might seem like a distant world to feel at home.
"We want people to understand what we can do here locally that will also affect animals globally and help them," Dinsmore said.
As Friends, she has a special sponsorship for Valentine's Day to help the zoo's efforts. You can learn more here.