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Bald Penguin Gets Wet Suit

 

Updated : Sep 11, 2009

A bald penguin in the UK has been fitted with a specially designed wetsuit to protect it from the risk of sunburn.

Ralph, a nine-year-old Humboldt penguin at Marwell Wildlife, lost all of his feathers in one day, exposing his pale pink skin to the summer sun.

Normally penguins do not lose their old feathers when they moult until new ones have grown underneath.

Now keepers at the zoo near Winchester in Hampshire have created the wetsuit from the leg of an adult wetsuit donated by a member of staff.

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,” he said.

Penguins have specialised feathers and each year they undergo a complete moult.

A new feather grows underneath |the old one, forcing it out, meaning that the old feathers are not normally discarded until the new ones are in place.

Humboldt penguins live along the coasts 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.

 

 

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