New Penguin Habitat Opens to Public

Welcome to Penguin Beach, London Zoo's new home to it's penguin residents.

The 2 million British pound enclosure opened it's first visitors at the Zoo on Thursday (May 26), where delighted crowds watched on either from the edge of the pool where they could get up close to the penguins or from below through an underwater viewing window.

While penguins might conjure up images of snow swept plains and ice flows, Adrian Walls, Team Leader of Birds at the Zoo, said the sandy, rocky environment was perfectly suited to the 80 Black-Footed, Macaroni, Humboldt and Rockhopper penguins that inhabit it.

"The beaches and the sand here at penguin beach will, or does, replicate exactly what's in the wild for these penguins. These penguins are basically South American and sort of sub Antarctic so are used to rocky outcrops and are also used to sandy and tundra areas so it does replicate exactly where you would find these species of penguin the wild," he explained.

Walls said that the 1,200 metre square new penguin pool - the biggest in England - is five times bigger and three times deeper than the previous one at the zoo and offered a better environment for the penguins to live naturally - hopefully encouraging breeding and making for a smoother transition into the wild if necessary.

"Obviously we're in an artificial environment but if I can make it as natural as possible, if I can get the penguins to adopt a lot of their naturalistic behaviours, if I can get them to build their own nests and make their own burrows and breed successfully without having to do anything artificially, if I can sit back watch the penguins and replicate what they're doing in the world, get them to porpoise in and out of the water then, for me as a keeper, as someone who spends nearly 365 days a year with the penguins, it's really important and it really gives me a buzz," he said.

"Some of them are on the endangered list some of them are managed studbook species," he added, referring to those wild animals born in captivity. "So, as zoos, we all work together and we keep a genetic population of penguins going so they may one day be released into the wild. So we've got a healthy balance of endangered species and also the charismatic fun species that everyone loves to watch."

The habitat officially opens to the public on Friday (May 26).

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