Zoo's Penguin Walk Keeps Birds Trim

PHOTO: Crowds of people watch the hugely popular Penguin Walk at Asahiyama Zoo in Asahikawa, Japan.

It's like "March of the Penguins" up close and personal.

The main winter attraction at a Japanese zoo is the twice-daily walk of its penguin population. The penguin exercise program at Asahikawa Zoo began in 2003 to fend off the obesity that sets in each winter. And while the health of the tuxedo-ed birds may have been the reason the program was created, it's been a boon for tourism as well. The Asahikawa tourism web site claims the zoo is the area's most popular attraction.

The penguins walk about a third of a mile twice each day. This season's first walk was in mid-December and the zoo plans to have the walk twice daily until March 14, unless the snow melts first. Once that happens, the penguins only walk once each day.

The walk, according to the zoo, is done at a "penguin's pace," which means it takes about 40 minutes. There's no partition separating people and penguins, so visitors get an up-close look.

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