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Opinion: What is the highest point in Cape?

Monday, October 25, 2004

If you have a question, e-mail factorfiction@semissourian.com or call Speak Out (334-5111) and identify your call as a question for "Fact or fiction?"

Q: Is it true that Academic Hall is the highest point in Cape Girardeau and that nothing can be built to exceed it?

A: There are no prohibitions on building higher than Academic Hall, say city staff. Whether the university building is the highest point in the city is unclear.

According to city planner Kent Bratton, the ground level of Academic Hall is about 510 feet, and there are hills in the city limits in Cape County Park which are around 600 feet at ground level. Odds are there are structures higher than Academic Hall in and around these areas.

However, Al Stoverink, facilities manager at Southeast Missouri State University, said that the campus views Academic as its signature building. When Dempster Hall was being planned, there was discussion about not making its height exceed that of Academic's. Stoverink doubts that the university would build anything to exceed that height. This does not preclude other entities from building higher.

Q: Would penguins make good pets?

A: "No. This is not a good thing," Rick Smith, a penguin keeper at the St. Louis Zoo, told me over the phone. "They would probably be sold to you illegally since to attain them legally is extremely expensive. Usually, they aren't fed the right diets. Some people with a whole lot of money might be able to afford care for them, but they're wild animals. Get a parakeet instead. They're bred by breeders. You're not taking them from the wild and endangering them."

I found similar answers online. Here's one comprehensive reply from penguin afficianados Peter and Barbara Barham:

"Over the years we have often been asked about the possibility of keeping penguins as pets. We are no experts, but we have talked to several. They all are completely against the idea.

"First off, all species of penguin are protected so that you could only (legally) get a penguin from a zoo that had bred it.

"Secondly, you would need a constant and reliable supply of fresh frozen fish as well as appropriate vitamin supplements, you would also need to know a vet who was familiar with penguins and the many diseases they are prone to when kept in captivity.

"Thirdly, you would need to be able to feed the birds every day so you couldn't take any more vacations! You can't just put a penguin into kennels!

"Fourthly, you would need to build a suitable enclosure to keep the bird -- different species have different environmental requirements. For example, there are no species of penguin that could live outside year round in say Chicago with its wide temperature variations. Plus all species of penguins require access to a large, deep and clean pool of water -- preferably salt water.

"Fifthly, penguins tend to live in large colonies -- anything less than say 20 birds would not be sufficient. So you would need a very healthy income. Zoos here reckon it costs around $700 per year just to keep one penguin in fish!

"Finally, why would you want to keep penguins for yourself anyway? They are much better left in the wild or in well-looked-after breeding colonies in zoos and aquaria. Remember that nearly all species are endangered to some extent or another."

Jon K. Rust is publisher of the Southeast Missourian. He can be reached at jrust@semissourian. com or by calling 335-6611.


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Jon K. Rust
Jon K. Rust is publisher of the Southeast Missourian and co-president of Rust Communications. He serves on the board of directors for the Associated Press. A native of Cape Girardeau, he has lived and worked in New York City, Boston, San Francisco and Moscow, Russia.