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18 out, 40 in at Belfast Zoo’s penguin enclosure.

Date: 05 Mar 2012

Gentoo penguin

Belfast Zoo welcomed 40 gentoo penguins from Edinburgh Zoo today, bringing the total number of gentoo penguins to 61.

Edinburgh Zoo are currently undertaking essential maintenance work in their penguin enclosure and so needed a safe and experienced zoo to take good care of their flock. The gentoo penguins will enjoy the Belfast scenery until the end of the breeding season, once chicks are weaned and favourable conditions present themselves they will return to their home in Scotland.

Hugh Roberts, Chief Executive of the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland, the charity which owns and manages Edinburgh Zoo, explained “The first stage will involve allowing the outdoor penguin pool to drain naturally, which will take around five weeks. We are losing a small amount of water from the pool every day, which is totally harmless, but costly for us as a conservation charity. The natural draining method will allow us to identify where exactly the water is coming from and will facilitate an accurate assessment by specialist engineers. We aim to have the pool upgraded and ready again for this summer.”

The arrival of the gentoo penguins comes at a time when Belfast Zoo prepares to move their Humboldt penguins to Fota Wildlife Park (in Cork) and Cotswold Wildlife Park, as part of a European breeding programme.

Belfast Zoo curator, Andrew Hope, said, “gentoo penguins are infrequently seen in zoos in Europe, so the opportunity to work exclusively with this species was a sensible one given our fantastic enclosure and keepers, and our long experience with this species. We will of course be sad to see the Humboldt’s leave but are excited to see the penguin colony grow.”