John Ball Zoo penguins get annual checkups

John Ball Zoo penguin
A Magellanic penguin gets a physical exam at John Ball Zoo in Grand Rapids, (Dec. 13, 2016)

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Mani-pedis aren’t just for people, the John Ball Zoo is proving.

The beak and nail trim was part of Tuesday’s annual physicals for the flock of Magellanic penguins at the Grand Rapids zoo.

The process started in the morning with zoo employees draining the penguin pool. The 29 birds were then organized in the empty tank and passed from expert to expert.

“It is definitely an assembly line process with the 29 penguins, making sure we get each one of them, that we don’t miss one. They all have unique bands on them. They (the workers) will separate them and take them one at a time. One is looking at their beak, another is looking at their eyes, taking their weight. (We’re) making sure we get all of them checked out closely,” said Melinda Robinett, education program manager for John Ball Zoo.

The animal experts also have to screen each penguin to ensure they haven’t swallowed something they shouldn’t.

“They will take a metal detector and run that over them because sometimes they swallow different objects. If people accidentally throw them in, or toss some money in, we’ve had the penguins swallow some of those things,” explained Robinett.

The birds also had their blood drawn and any extra medical care deemed necessary. Veterinary medicine students from Michigan State University took part in Tuesday’s checkups, getting some hands-on training.