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|Common Name:||Gentoo penguins||Family:||Spheniscidae|
|Latin Name:||Pygoscelis papua||Diet:||Carnivore|
|Native To:||Antarctica||Social Unit:||Group|
|IUCN Red List Status:||Neat threatened|
Gentoo penguins at Edinburgh Zoo
Now that the renovation work is complete on Penguins Rock, we are currently home to over 70 gentoo penguins.
Although active all year, the best time to see the birds is during the annual breeding season. This starts at the beginning of March, when the keepers place the nest-rings in the enclosure. The birds return to the same nests they used in previous years and usually pair up with the same partner. Very often the keepers find the birds waiting on their nest position before the nest-ring has gone down!
When the nest rings are in place, the birds start the collection of nesting material – at Edinburgh Zoo, this consists of small pebbles. Whilst the keepers provide piles of pebbles, the gentoos often prefer to steal likely-looking pebbles from their neighbours’ nests, inevitably causing arguments!
The first eggs are laid in April and the eggs hatch after a 35 day incubation. The chicks weigh between 70-100g (3-3.5 oz), but very quickly put on weight so that by July they are 5kg (11 lbs) and ready to wean. At this stage, the adults and chicks engage in ‘feeding chases,’ where the chicks chase their parents around the nest-site begging for food. This ensures that the parents only ever feed their own chick.
Edinburgh Zoo holds the European Studbook for gentoo penguins. This is a genetic database of all the gentoos held in European zoos.
As with all the animals at the Zoo, the penguin keepers spend a lot of time designing and thinking up enrichment devices for the gentoos. This can take the form of food dispensers and scatter feeds in the pool, hoses providing a ‘penguin jacuzzi’, or novel objects such as ‘snow-penguins’ or ice piles in the winter! One of the most popular enrichments has been the introduction of a bubble machine with the gentoos eagerly chasing the bubbles across the enclosure and pool.
Although fairly plain compared to our other species – they do not have the elaborate plumes of the Rockhopper penguins nor the vibrant colours of the King penguins – they more than make up for this by their exuberant personalities. They are active, curious individuals always investigating their surroundings which can sometimes get them into trouble!
Where it can be found at Edinburgh Zoo
Our gentoo penguin colony can be found in the Penguins Rock enclosure near the Education Centre.
Gentoo penguins in the wild
Gentoo penguins (Pygoscelis papua) are medium-sized penguins, about 76 cm in height and weighing an average of 5 Kg (11 lbs). They have the characteristic grey back and white belly of all penguin species with a broad white band stretching across the head from eye to eye.
All penguin species are found in the southern hemisphere. Gentoos can be found in the Falklands, South Georgia, Kerguelen, Marion, Macquarie and other remote islands and the Antarctic peninsula.
Gentoos face the same problems threatening other penguin species—global warming, over-fishing, marine pollution and habitat loss. Gentoo populations in the wild are experiencing population declines due to these threats. As a result, the gentoo penguin is listed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) as Near Threatened, meaning that it is likely to qualify for a threatened category in the near future.
Edinburgh Zoo sponsors conservation projects to help penguins through Falklands Conservation.
Breeding programme category: ESB
IUCN Red List category: Near Threatened
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