'Pepe' the penguin roams free at Brookfield Zoo

August 7, 2012 (CHICAGO)

This unusual zoo story is taking place in Brookfield's Living Coast - Rocky Shores habitat. It features Pepe, a five-month-old Humboldt penguin who is learning to roam freely with the zoo visitors, especially the kids.

There are no bars and no glass between Pepe and new pals.

"We're just starting his training," said Tim Snyder, curator of birds and reptiles. "He will be visiting with the guests and special events at the zoo, giving him training and getting him used to the people."

The whole idea is for Ambassador Pepe to teach conservation about his critically endangered species from the coast of Peru.

What better way to teach than to get up close and personal to get Pepe to be one of us?

"He actually thinks he's one of the people," said Snyder. "He'll walk through there, visit with people. And he gets time to visit his penguin pals but he likes to be with people."

Pepe hatched five months ago, weighing in at about 2 ounces. Officials decided to raise him by hand and that's why he's so used to people ... and why he likes the kids and the kids like him.

Pepe only roams free once or twice a week, when the crowds are small and Pepe is in a fun-loving mood.

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