We love seeing them on the big screen, as fluffy plush toys, and imagining ourselves in a zen-like waddling parade. I don’t like to burst bubbles but the reality of penguins is that you just can’t go up and snuggle them when you want. Penguins do have sharp beaks and stumpy flippers as their defensive aid and they will use them if they feel annoyed or threatened.
“I’ve been bitten hundreds of times. There’s not a day that goes by I don’t go home without a wound, a sore or cut on my hands.”
– Rick Yazzolino, Portland Zoo
I did a speech for a college course about them this past winter. I described the feeling of being bitten as a pair of needle-nose pliers pulling at your skin and the flippers smacking you like heavy sandals being thrashed around quickly. I know if I were to meet up with a penguin in a close encounter, I would remember to be calm and don’t force interaction with them. It would be best to let them make the first move since you’re on their turf and rules.