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Banding together

12/09/2017 in Edinburgh Zoo

Penguin chicks at RZSS Edinburgh Zoo receive their unique I.D. bands


The 18 penguin chicks hatched this year at RZSS Edinburgh Zoo are all grown up! The chicks are now losing their fluffy down feathers and are being integrated with the adults. They have already got their adult plumage and are now joining the main colony of penguins at Penguins Rock. 

The penguins have spent the last few weeks honing their swimming, communicating and feeding skills in the crèche area and are now ready to receive their adult bands and join the large group of penguins at the Zoo.

Dawn Nicoll, Penguin Keeper at RZSS Edinburgh Zoo, said:

“Now that all 18 of the penguin chicks are ready to join the main colony they will be fitted with their identification bands. Each band has a unique formation of coloured beads which help us to identify the individual penguins at a glance.

“While we can identify most of the penguins through their personalities or certain characteristics, with over 130 penguins it is helpful to be able to definitively tell them apart, especially during feeding times when we have to make sure each penguin receives the right amount of food.”

The bands are placed on the young penguins’ flippers once they have been sexed. In a first for Penguins Rock, the genetic work required to determine the gender of the penguins was carried out on site at the RZSS Wildgenes genetic lab. Finding out the gender of the chicks is important as female penguins are banded on their left flipper and males are banded on the right. This allows keepers to ensure that each penguin is receiving the correct care and helps to easily identify pairings during breeding season.

“The results from the Wildgenes lab showed that the first northern rockhopper chick hatched at the Zoo in eight years is male. He has been given a solid gold band as his parents, Brucetta and Al, both have gold beads in their bands. He will be named soon and we are very excited about the role he will go on to play in the breeding programme for this endangered species of penguin.” Dawn continued.

Penguins have been an integral part of RZSS Edinburgh Zoo since the Zoo opened in 1913 and now they play an important part in the conservation work carried out around the globe, too. Project Pinnamin – a collaboration between RZSS, the British Antarctic Survey, RSPB, Tristan Conservation and the Government of South Africa – is spearheading research to help improve the very limited understanding of the northern rockhopper and the factors affecting its population numbers on Tristan da Cunha. This research will go on to inform the implementation of appropriate conservation measures to help secure the future for this endangered species.

For more information about the important conservation work carried out by RZSS around the globe please visit:

For all the latest from Penguins Rock, visit our dedicated penguin webcam:






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