Belfast Telegraph

Edinburgh penguins on holiday at Belfast Zoo

By Linda Stewart

It has to be a record — more than 60 gentoo penguins now flocking together in Belfast Zoo’s penguin enclosure.

The reason? A total of 40 penguins from Edinburgh Zoo are holidaying across the Irish Sea while essential maintenance work is being carried out in their penguin enclosure.

The zoo needed a safe and experienced zoo to take care of the flock, so the Edinburgh gentoos are enjoying a change of scenery in Belfast until the end of the breeding season.

Once the 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, said: “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 its 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 Humboldts leave, but are excited to see the penguin colony grow.”

You can contribute towards the care of the latest arrivals by taking part in the zoo’s adoption scheme. For more log on to www.belfastzoo.co.uk/adoption or call 028 9077 6277 ext. 229.

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