Thursday, April 25, 2019

Happy World Penguin Day

Northern Rockhopper Penguin at the Edinburgh Zoo
 In honor of World Penguin Penguin Day, here is a little bit about my visit to Edinburgh Zoo, in Scotland, the first zoo in the world to host and breed penguins.

Penguin Rock in Edinburgh. the largest penguin pool in Europe

Some of the zoos first animals were four King Penguins, a Gentoo Penguin and a Macaroni Penguin,  who arrived in 1914, after a 7000 mile journey, the first penguins seen anywhere in the world outside of the South Atlantic, their home.

King Penguins at the Edinburgh Zoo

The Edinburgh Zoo, formerly the Scottish National Zoological Park, welcomed the first King Penguin hatchling in 1919, the first penguin hatched in a zoo anywhere in the world. It was a fairly new zoo at the time, opened to the public in 1913.

A Northern Rockhopper Penguin

The first Macaroni Chick hatched at the Zoo in 1935. Macaroni penguins look a lot like Rockhoppers.

Gentoo Penguins at feeding time

In 1937, the first Gentoo chick made its appearance.

A view of one small part of the Penguin Pool
The Penguin Pool, now known as Penguin Rock, was originally built in 1930, and expanded in 1990.

King Penguins in Edinburgh have a very large area

In 2013 it reopened after further improvements, and the penguins returned from their vacations in England, Ireland and Denmark. It is the largest Penguin pool in Europe, holding 1.2 million liters of water.

Penguins of Edinburgh Zoo

Edinburgh Zoo now hosts three kinds of penguins: King, Northern Rockhopper and Gentoo.
Gentoo Penguins at the Edinburgh Zoo Penguin Parade

Since 1951, the penguins have participated in a daily parade. The legend is that the inaugural parade was an accident, after a keeper left a gate open and the penguins followed, to the delight of the zoo visitors.

Out for a stroll in Scotland
It is completely on a voluntary basis, on the part of the penguins. Whoever of the penguins wants to march that day is welcome to join the fun, accompanied by the keepers, as the parade audience stays behind the perimeter markings. 

The crowds gather for the 2:15 p.m. parade every day

Sometimes there are many penguins out strolling with the keepers, and some days it is only a few.

The Penguin on the right has Leucism. 

A rare genetic mutation at the zoo some years ago resulted in a penguin with a beautiful muted silver tone of feathers. There are several of these leucistic Gentoo Penguins in Edinburgh. 

There are several of the rare Leucistic Penguins in Edinburgh

Leucism occurs in the various species of Penguins in the wild, but they often don't live to adulthood, and are ostracized by the other penguins. In Edinburgh, however, the silver  penguins are treated just the same by the other penguins. In fact the silvery penguin named Snowflake is a particular favorite among the other birds, and seems to always have a companion nearby, the keepers say.

Feeding time for the Gentoos

Down the hatch. A Gentoo Penguin gets some lunch from the keeper.

A Scottish sea gull seems to lecture the penguins

The general consensus is that there are 17 distinct species of Penguins in the world, although several resemble each other, and there are some sub species. The smallest type is the Little (Blue) Penguin, which weighs a barely two pounds, and the largest is the Emperor Penguin, who stands four feet tall.

Humboldt Penguins in Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle. The Penguin Feedings are a popular event at the zoo.

Some of them, such as the Emperor and King Penguins, live in the icy blasts of Antarctica, but other species make their homes on warmer shores, but all in the Southern Hemisphere.

The Penguins living in the Antarctic are being especially threatened by climate change, as their formerly stable breeding grounds on the ice shelf melt and fall into the sea.

King Penguins out for a stroll at the Cincinnati Zoo. These Penguin Parades take place in January and February on certain days when the temperature remains below 50 degrees F, and are totally voluntary on the part of the Cincinnati Zoo Penguins. 

Little (Blue) Penguins, molting their feathers, at the Cincinnati Zoo

 While Penguins and Polar Bears are often housed near each other in zoos, and are often featured together on flannel pajamas and in TV commercials, they would never meet in the wild. Polar Bears live at the very Northern top of the world, and Penguins all live in the Southern Hemisphere, some very near the South Pole.

Three Magellanic Penguin chicks, not resembling their parents much, at the Point Defiance Zoo in Seattle.

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