We say goodbye to Ralph, our superstar Humboldt penguin

February 22, 2018

It is with great sadness we have to announce the passing of Ralph, our much-loved Humboldt penguin aged 19.

Ralph was born on New Year’s Day 1999 and spent most of his life with us at Marwell Zoo after arriving from Germany’s Nuremberg Zoo in 2006. 

Ralph became an international superstar when he started to wear a wetsuit for protection against the elements due to moulting much quicker than other penguins, leaving him with sensitive bald patches. 

Initially keepers designed a suit from the leg of an adult wetsuit however in 2013 Californian surf brand O’Neill designed Ralph his very own custom wetsuit in a sponsorship deal normally reserved for surf and snowboarding stars. 

Eight months ago Ralph was diagnosed with arthritis, an incurable and degenerative age-related condition which was well managed with medication until recently. Taking all factors into careful consideration and in order to prevent any unnecessary distress or pain to Ralph, we took the difficult decision to euthanase him. 

James Ellis, Birds Team Leader at Marwell Wildlife, said: “It is very sad that we have had to say goodbye to Ralph, the oldest penguin in our colony. Ralph was simply unique and never far from the spotlight with his mischievous antics, which will be sorely missed by everyone who knew and looked after him. Ralph had a long and happy life and everyone has wonderful memories of him.” 

Ralph and his partner Coral raised several chicks at Marwell, including Calippo, who remains in the colony.

Jan Michaelis, European Marketing Manager of O’Neill Wetsuits, said: “All of the team at O’Neill Wetsuits HQ are saddened to hear of Ralph’s passing. We first helped Ralph by providing him with a custom-made wetsuit in 2013. He has been considered a much loved and unique member of our team ever since! Wishing him an endless supply of fish, waves and peace up in penguin heaven!”