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Gentoo Penguin

Every element of our Gentoo Penguin's care is managed by expert staff, from the design of their icy enclosure, to daily interaction and regular health checks.

  • SEA LIFE, Polar Adventure

An Icy Home

Unlike many other species of penguin more commonly seen in zoos and aquariums, such as Humboldt penguins that are found close to the equator in warm climates, Gentoo penguins are naturally found in Antarctica. Penguin Point was designed by our SEA LIFE experts in collaboration with specialist vets.

A priority was to include a system that maintains a consistent and appropriate temperature and lighting that stimulates the penguins’ annual moulting, nesting and breeding patterns; the fluctuating London climate would disrupt these vital annual cycles and would at times be far too warm and uncomfortable for an Antarctic species which is covered in a thick layer of blubber and insulating feathers. We constantly filter the air to ensure the penguins are not subjected to any pollution or airborne diseases such as avian flu. Another great advantage of our penguins’ enclosure is that they cannot get hold of any plastic litter that could choke them; they are extremely curious and like to pick up and play with interesting new objects.

Daily Care

Hand-feeding the penguins numerous times a day allows us to keep an eye on every bird; plumage, cleanliness, movement, levels of activity and appetite are some of the indicators that our staff look for to check for signs of sickness or distress. All our birds were captive bred here in the UK, meaning they are completely familiar with keeper interaction. Gaining the penguins’ trust means that we can weigh them regularly and closely inspect them without causing any alarm. Our keepers know each of them so well it is easy for them to spot very small changes in behaviour to alert us of a problem at the earliest opportunity. On top of this an independent specialist vet visits us every two months and checks the penguins are in top health.

Swimming penguins

See our penguins in action

If you visit our aquarium in the morning or early afternoon you will see the penguins all in the water, playing together and also interacting with guests at the window. Penguins are extremely curious and enjoy chasing each other around and investigating everything around them; from the fresh layer of ice chips that are scattered over the display throughout the day, to in-water scatter-feeds of small fish called sprat.

Gentoo penguins are extremely sociable and live in a group called a colony.

Every year, just as they would in the wild, our penguins undergo what is known as a ‘catastrophic moult’ at the hottest time of the year when they lose all their feathers and grow new ones for the following year. During this time they can look quite untidy as their new feathers grow in. Their feathers also act as a waterproof layer for the penguins when they are swimming, so when they are moulting they cannot go in the water. This is why you will see them only on the land during this time, looking a bit scruffy; we make sure they are comfortable by having shallow water to cool off in, and keep a close eye on them for these few weeks.

Breeding

As the temperature rises and the penguins enter the breeding season, many of the colony form mating pairs and nest. We provide them with everything they need to court and build nests, just as they would in the wild; In particular a good supply of pebbles is essential as they give these to their mates as gifts and use them as building materials. Throughout the breeding season our penguin colony spend most of their time stealthily stealing the most desirable pebbles from other nests, exactly as wild Gentoo penguins do.

 

We are very proud to say that our first penguin chick, Elsa, hatched in May 2014. Her parents, Luna and Arnie, are naturals and Elsa is growing at a healthy rate, fast becoming one of the most inquisitive and outgoing members of the colony. Gentoos have very specific needs and high standards so they will only breed if they are content in their environment. This breeding success is an extremely encouraging sign that the colony is comfortable and confident in their surroundings.

Million Fishes

Conservation & Education

Our Gentoo Penguins have an important role to play as ambassadors for their wild counterparts. Wild Penguins, and many other Antarctic species, are suffering as their natural prey is overfished. Millions of sea creatures, including all species of penguin, are killed each year when they become entangled in or ingest plastic debris, and climate change is melting the ice caps that many Penguin species depend on for nesting grounds.

Educational public talks about the Penguins take place twice a day and during your visit you can pick up a free MCS Good Fish Guide to help you chose sustainable seafood.