Image: Penguin at airport
Mario Tama  /  Getty Images
One of 19 penguins, rescued along with two sea otters in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, arrives in New Orleans on Monday after a flight from its temporary refuge in California.
updated 5/22/2006 10:21:34 PM ET 2006-05-23T02:21:34

Nineteen African blackfooted penguins and two sea otters that were rescued from a New Orleans aquarium after Hurricane Katrina returned home Monday on a cargo flight donated by FedEx Corp.

The creatures, which had been living at the Monterey Bay Aquarium since September, departed Oakland International Airport in a FedEx plane Monday morning, said aquarium spokeswoman Karen Jeffries.

The 21 animals were evacuated when Katrina forced the Audubon Aquarium of the Americas to shut down. The New Orleans aquarium was expected to reopen over Memorial Day weekend.

The evacuees arrived early Monday afternoon at Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport, where they were welcomed on a purple carpet by a brass band, before returning to the aquarium, said spokesman Ryan Furby for Memphis, Tenn.-based FedEx, which donated the chartered flight and $100,000 to the aquarium.

"They are in their exhibit now and they seem very happy to be home," Furby said. "They're swimming around. They seem to be feeling well."

The displaced penguins joined the Monterey aquarium's 18 own penguins, most of which originally came from New Orleans.

"It was a family reunion when we helped rescue them and brought them out here," Jeffries said, adding that the crowded exhibit was one of its most popular. "Penguins do like living in large colonies. They feel more secure with more penguins around."

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