There were two African Penguins who played ‘Tux’ in Northern Rescue; Dayo, the baby, was ten-years-old and the youngest of six and Skadu, his 20-year-old brother. The African penguin is also known as the Jackass penguin and the Black-footed penguin. They get the name Jackass from the braying sound penguins make when they are mating, fending off threats, when they want to nest or as part of their bonding behaviour.
Taylor Thorne who played Taylor West in Northern Rescue and rehearsed with and worked the most with Dayo, confessed, "I got the full Penguin experience! It brayed for me, gave me a love bite and even pooped on me. I can't lie.... I was a wee bit scared of it at first. It’s a wild animal!!!!” Taylor explains. “But I would work with Tux (Dayo) again and again. It was so cute, followed me everywhere and well just looked darn great on screen.”
Both penguins permanently live in Sea Life Caverns, which is part of the Marine Life Department at West Edmonton Mall. Sea Life Caverns at West Edmonton Mall has been open since 1986 and is a sustainability partner in the AZA African Penguin Species Survival Plan Program (SSP). West Edmonton Mall- Marine Life Department accepts donations for SANCCOB, (South African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds) an organization dedicated to protecting penguins and providing a 24/7 rescue service for sick and injured seabirds and abandoned chicks. SANCCOB is an international body dedicated to seabird rehabilitation and respond to oil spill disasters along the South African coastline. The penguins were transported to Parry Sound in a custom wooden crate via airplane with their trainers from Edmonton, Cristina Castrejon or Megan Whyte.
Due to regulations, Dayo and Skadu weren’t allowed to work longer than 6 hours a day. A typical day on set consisted of the animal wrangler, Jordan Worrall, and either Cristina or Megan, and penguins arriving to the studio at the Perry Sound Curling Club and settling the penguins into the custom-built pool area. There they waited for the director to let them know what was needed from the penguins and then eventually executing the scenes. When they worked, the penguin trainers periodically would spray the penguin in order to cool the penguin. The penguin’s rider included a chilled salt water pool, 5 feet deep and cool air in the room, and the curling rink worked out perfectly for penguins to film in. While the penguins waited, they went swimming with the trainers, who wore a wet-suit and got into the water with them to ensure their safety and they ate as much capelin and herring as they wanted.
Dayo was the main penguin that played ‘Tux’ and has appeared in two specials for Discovery Channel and David Suzuki and in the Telus commercials.
The African Penguin Species Survival Plan (SSP) helps AZA accredited facilities, Conservation Partners and Certified Related Facilities to enhance the conservation of this species. The SSP works to maximize the genetic diversity by managing a breeding plan by transferring penguins amongst participating facilities, since the penguins have been on the endangered species list.
If people would like to help protect penguins, they can support sustainable fisheries (avoid over fishing), avoid pollution by recycling plastics and big companies should put measures in place to avoid oil spills.
While on-set special measures where taken to avoid any problems for Dayo and Skadu. Before the penguins started working the wranglers addressed the cast and crew about the safety precautions production must take while Dayo and Skadu were on the set.
Those precautions included:
• No Teflon or any kind of Non-Stick pans could be in the proximity of the penguins so all the frying pans in the kitchen had to be carefully checked over.
• No use of harsh chemicals, bleaches, Lysol, aerosols, anything with a corrosive symbol on it.
• Limit distracting motion, or smells such as food, perfume and the hairspray finals on the cast had to be conducted at least 15 feet away from the penguins.
• No food could be served to the cast and crew on-set – but the ‘substantials’ were served away from the penguins.
• Noise levels must be kept to a minimum when the penguins are on set.
• Only designated performers, dandlers and/or wranglers are permitted to work with the penguins. Anyone not directly involved in the action involving the animals would be a distraction and were asked to step off the set.
• No pictures could be taken without the wrangler’s consent.