Disabled Baby Penguin Helps Children Celebrate Their Differences

Mason Joseph Zimmer
baby penguin lying down
Facebook | OdySea Aquarium

We never know how life will turn out for us and how our bodies will differ from each other's, and that's just as true within the animal kingdom.

And while the unfortunate truth is that the world is often functionally and socially different for people with disabilities, nature isn't any kinder in that respect. So when an animal is born with a difference that makes life more difficult for them, they'll often depend on the care of their human supporters to gain some independence.

But as these animals often demonstrate once they get their footing in life, they can end up helping us just as much as their friends have helped them along the way.

And even though she's only eight months old, that's already true of one determined penguin.

On December 19, two penguins named Mojo and Lemieux became parents for the first time.

adult penguins peeking out from aquarium's cove.
Facebook | OdySea Aquarium

According to a video posted to Facebook by the OdySea Aquarium in Scottsdale, Arizona where they live, their child Rosie is the 39th penguin born at the aquarium and staff described their parenting style as overly protective.

Unfortunately, this meant that they were particularly restrictive of Rosie's room to move, which may have influenced an issue she's been dealing with ever since.

Although Rosie was found to be growing and gaining weight at a healthy rate, carers noticed that she couldn't sit up on her own.

baby penguin lying down
Facebook | OdySea Aquarium

Soon after this was discovered, the aquarium's director of health Dr. Eric Anderson confirmed that Rosie has some skeletal abnormalities that caused her feet to be misaligned.

But thanks to some support and ingenuity from her carers, Rosie would be walking by the time she was eight months old.

To strengthen Rosie's core and leg muscles, the OdySea team would end up building a "penguin jump-a-roo."

baby penguin in homemade support apparatus
Facebook | OdySea Aquarium

As a caption in the video stated, "The goal was to get her from laying on her belly to sitting upright, bearing weight on her legs, and eventually walking."

This "jump-a-roo" was made from a onesie for premature animals, elastic straps, and gromets before it was secured to a frame made of PVC pipe. And after weeks of encouraging her to lift her feet and move them forward, she developed enough balance to walk without it.

In the words of another caption, "She is resilient to the challenges she has been dealt."

The strength and determination she and her carers have shown led her to be named after Rosie the Riveter.

baby penguin standing by aquarium employee
Facebook | OdySea Aquarium

And while she's getting stronger and better at walking and swimming every day, she's having an impact on others as well.

According to Good Morning America, Rosie has met with autistic children, children with cerebral palsy, and other kids with developmental conditions.

With such meetings, the staff at Odysea hope that she will spread joy to these children and inspire them to embrace their differences.

h/t: Facebook | OdySea Aquarium