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News Jun 23, 2009 - 2:57 PM

Brookfield student Shannon Pugliese raises more than $1,000 to help save the African penguins

By Mystic Aquarium

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Money raised will support Mystic Aquarium & Institute for Exploration’s efforts to save the African penguins

Shannon Pugliese presents a check for more than $1,000 to help the penguins at Mystic Aquarium & Institute for Exploration and in the wild. (from left): Peter Glankoff, senior vice president of marketing and public affairs; Shannon Pugliese, one of the aquarium’s resident African penguins and Senior Penguin Trainer Erin Lovin in front of the Roger Tory Peterson Penguin Exhibit.
Ever since she was a child, 15-year-old Shannon Pugliese of Brookfield, Conn. has spent as much time at Mystic Aquarium & Institute for Exploration as she could, visiting the animals and participating in summer camps. Now, she’s found a way to further help some of the aquarium’s residents – the African penguins – and their relatives across the world. After learning about the aquarium’s “Pennies for Penguins” campaign, she began collecting money from the community and has raised more than $1,000 to help the African penguins within a few months.

On Friday, June 19, Shannon presented the check, which will assist with the aquarium’s penguin research and conservation efforts, to Peter Glankoff, senior vice president of marketing and public affairs at Sea Research Foundation, Inc. She also had a close-up visit with one of the resident birds and received a membership to the Kelvin Smith Ocean Society, the aquarium’s leadership level donor society, which recognizes individuals who make significant contributions to support the institution’s mission.

Throughout the summer, the aquarium is collecting “Pennies for Penguins” to help the rapidly declining African penguin population. Guests can also enter to win a monthly drawing for a one-of-a-kind piece of art created by the aquarium’s penguins.

With the help of her mother and aunt, Shannon began her own “Pennies for Penguins” drive by going to different offices and asking people to donate simply by emptying their pockets or scraping the bottoms of their purses. Before long, the donations went from zip-lock bags full of pennies to dollar bills and checks.

“The public needs to be aware of this beautiful threatened species,” said Shannon. “It was great to see that people care – everyone was very generous with their donations. It’s important that research around the environmental issues affecting the birds continues.”

“Over the last five years, the world’s African penguin population has decreased by an alarming 42 percent,” said Dr. Stephen M. Coan, president and CEO of Sea Research. “The money Shannon worked so hard to raise will help our Penguin Task Force continue to work with researchers around the world to gain a better understanding of penguins in the wild.”

Shannon plans to continue collecting money and views the $1,000 as a “kick-off point.” Now, larger companies involved in wild bird life are donating to Shannon’s cause by sponsoring her for Mystic Aquarium & Institute for Exploration’s 3rd Annual Penguin Run/Walk on October 17, the proceeds of which go right back to penguin care and research.

For more information on the Penguin Run/Walk or the “Pennies for Penguins” campaign, please visit

The plight of the penguins
In 2000, before the Treasure oil spill, approximately 11,000 African penguins were breeding and living on South Africa’s Robben Island, the third largest breeding island for African penguins. Today, less than 4,500 call the island home. In December 2008, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed listing the African penguin as endangered under the Endangered Species Act.

The African penguins at Mystic Aquarium & Institute for Exploration are helping their relatives across the world. They play an integral role in the African Penguin Species Survival Plan, and the aquarium staff’s work with them is helping researchers better understand penguins in the wild. In fact, the aquarium is a leader in a collaborative, nationwide effort to assist researchers in South Africa.

Last year, staff from the aquarium’s animal care, education and research departments got together to form the Penguin Task Force. Their mission is to examine all factors possibly affecting the penguins and develop a plan for the aquarium to lead and assist with education, research and conservation efforts of these species.

About Sea Research Foundation, Inc.
Mystic Aquarium, Institute for Exploration and Immersion Presents are divisions of Sea Research Foundation, Inc., a private, non-profit, charitable organization incorporated in the State of Connecticut. The mission of Sea Research is to inspire people to care for and protect our ocean planet through education, research and exploration.

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