January 11, 2022

penguin at pittsburgh zoo adapting and inspiring after wing amputation


Guests to the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium may notice a unique penguin among the black and gold colony: a one-winged, one-year-old gentoo penguin named Floppy. Floppy, named by a donor shortly after his birth, is the only known penguin with an amputated wing at a zoo or aquarium in the United States. The procedure took place in late 2021 and the penguin’s recovery is progressing well.

In August 2021, aquarists at the PPG Aquarium noticed some swelling near the young penguin’s shoulder. Floppy was given an X-ray and it was confirmed that he had broken a wing bone. The vets and aquarists offered care and monitored the injury for signs of natural healing for several weeks. However, it became apparent that the bone was not healing properly. Surgical repair was ruled out due to the location of the break, so the Pittsburgh Zoo’s Animal Care staff diligently consulted with other institutions before it was decided that the best avenue of recovery was to have the wing amputated.

Floppy’s surgery successfully occurred on September 8th. While amputation was the best option for Floppy, he had to re-learn how to swim, dive, float, navigate his habitat, and exit the water. The Animal Care team has closely monitored his progress and has been pleased every step of the way. He is able to perform most activities fairly well, and the staff of the PPG Aquarium has installed a ramp so that he that can better enter and exit the water. In late 2021, Floppy was reintroduced to the colony and can now often be seen publicly in his habitat.

Floppy continues to make progress towards a full recovery every day. The life expectancy of penguins in the wild is 10-15 years, but living in aquariums, they can reach over 30 years of age. He and his fellow penguins can be seen in their habitat at the PPG Aquarium year-round. Floppy is expected to remain indoors at this time, though on weather-permitting weekends through February, other members of the penguin colony can be seen exploring outside during the Penguins on Parade event.

Follow the Zoo on social media @pghzoo for photos and updates.