Ralph the bald penguin gets a new wetsuit

For the second year running Ralph, one of our penguins, has been given a wetsuit to help survive the summer months outdoors. Ralph

Ralph, a ten year old Humboldt penguin, has been given a snazzier version of last year’s wetsuit. This new and improved wetsuit, still protects his pink skin from the risk of sunburn, but comes with extra features including Velcro for even more flexibility and ease of fitting plus his name has been emblazoned down the side.  

Penguins moult every year, which usually takes between four to six weeks to complete. However, Ralph loses all his feathers in the space of a few days, so new ones do not grow through in time, exposing his pale pink skin to the sun. The wetsuit protects Ralph’s sensitive skin until his new feathers have grown through, which his keepers think will take around a month.

The made to measure wetsuit was created from soft neoprene, a rubber which is used to make wetsuits for humans. Dave White, Head Keeper for the penguins said: “The stretchy material lets Ralph move around normally. The added benefit of the Velcro means that as his new feathers grow through we will be able to adjust it’s size, so it’s always comfy for him. At the moment he is sitting on two eggs with his partner Coral and she seems happy enough with his new look for this year.”

Humboldt penguins live along the coats of Peru and Chile within the reaches of the Humboldt Current, a cold current of water running from the Antarctic to the equator, from which they take their name. Humboldt penguins are thought to be declining in number, possibly due to El Nino increasing water temperatures and reducing food supply.

Last year’s wetsuit was made by Ralph’s keepers from the leg of a wetsuit donated by a member of staff. This year’s wetsuit has been made for free by Byrnice Reeds who contacted us after seeing Ralph in the news last year and offered to make Ralph a made to measure wetsuit.

See videos of Ralph in the new suit on our Youtube channel

11 June 2010

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