Ralph the bald penguin gets a wetsuit

A bald penguin has been given a specially-designed wetsuit to help protect him from the risk of sunburn.

Penguins moult every year, which usually takes between four to six weeks to complete. However, Ralph, a nine year old Humboldt penguin, lost all of his feathers in one day, exposing his pale pink skin to the sun. The wetsuit will protect Ralph’s sensitive skin until his new feathers have grown through, which his keepers think will take another two to three weeks.

Ralph’s keepers made the wetsuit out of the leg of an adult wetsuit donated by a member of our staff. The stretchy material lets Ralph move around normally, and after a few minutes adjusting he was happily back to swimming around in the penguin pool.

David Schofield, Head Keeper for the penguins said: “At first the other penguins were curious but it wasn’t long before they recognised and accepted Ralph again. He doesn’t seem to mind the wetsuit and is able to swim and move around normally. It was quite easy to fit and we were able to customise it by creating the extra openings for his flippers once he was in it.”

Humboldt penguins live along the coats of Peru and Chile within the reaches of 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.

Watch videos of Ralph on our Youtube channel

13 August 2009

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