Already social animals, the 24 African black-footed penguins at the Adventure Aquarium in Camden have lately paraded their tuxedos around much more public settings.

They're sharpening their social skills as part of a relatively new aquarium philosophy that seeks to engage them at an early age.

"Over the past few years we've discovered that if we expose them to things as soon as they are hatchlings, they grow up being able to do the things we need them to earlier and they're more comfortable with us," said Jennifer Duffy, a senior biologist at the aquarium.

That means letting them walk around the aquarium and, for the calmer, better-adjusted penguins, to make appearances on local TV stations and have one-on-one interactions with Make a Wish recipients and charity events. Nine of the birds waddled around between innings at a Riversharks baseball game.

"The grass weirded them out," Duffy said.

As for a fully immersive exhibit allowing aquarium visitors to walk among the birds without a glass barrier, Duffy doesn't see that happening any time soon. "They have a nice little hook that helps them catch fish," she said. "It doesn't feel too good if they catch you in it instead."

- Julia Terruso