A day in the life of a penguin keeper at The Deep

Published: Tuesday 25th April 2017 by Courtney Farrow

Comments (0)

Today is World Penguin Day. To celebrate, we caught up with Emma Burdon at The Deep to find out more about their Gentoo penguin exhibit.

Hi Emma. Getting to spend your day with penguins must be fun. Can you take us through a typical morning?

When we arrive, our first job is to have a quick check over the exhibit. We give it a good clean down as it’s pretty dirty in the mornings. Penguins tend to poo a lot during the night.

Then we’ll head off to a meeting to catch up with the rest of the department and the other aquarists and fish keepers.

At this point, we’ll pass on any important information and hear about what’s happening in the rest of the department.

At 11:30am, the penguins have their first feed of the day. The public can come down to watch this, as well as listen to a talk that usually takes place.

How do you feed the penguins?

We hand feed all of them. We do this for a few reasons.

Firstly, it allows us to get up close and personal with the birds, which is good for keeping track of their health and wellbeing.

Also, feeding by hand is a great way to allow the penguins to get used to us. There are times when we need to be a bit more hands-on with them, and hand feeding daily ensures that they are not scared or intimidated by us.

Lastly, we can keep a close eye on what they are eating. We can tell when a penguin is preparing to moult, breed or lay eggs by how much they consume. Hand feeding means that we’re always one step ahead.

We also do some general scatter feeds to help with enrichment. This makes them swim and search for their food like they would in the wild.

A healthy penguin can eat 10-14% of its body weight a day. That’s equivalent to an average sized human eating around 7-10kg of food each day.

What sort of food do you give them?

We generally feed them fish and krill.

Krill is a great natural food for Gentoo penguins and makes up about half of their diet in the wild.

It’s quite small and we’ll regularly use krill during a scatter feed. It really makes them work and forage for their food.

For hand feeding, their favourite is capelin, herring and sardines.

Penguins are really good at regulating their own diets. We also offer them a variety of oily fish and fatty fish, so they can choose what they want and need.

How do you ensure that the penguins feel at home in their surroundings?

We provide a naturally enriched environment for our Gentoos. We have natural pebbles so that the penguins can build their own nests during breeding season.

They also have access to water sprinklers, a freshwater drinking pool and a deep diving area.

Many people don’t realise just how deep it goes because it’s under the walkways of the exhibition.

Are there any other activities that you share with the penguins?

We regularly work with the Gentoos to give them some additional enrichment and training.

This gives them something new to think about, as well as helping with our research. For example, the penguins can choose to get weighed on our scales in exchange for a fish treat.

We never force them, but we find that they are happy to oblige. It’s great for cognitive enrichment.

Can you tell us some fun and exciting facts about penguins?

They are definitively interesting creatures. Gentoos in particular are the fastest underwater swimming penguins, reaching incredible speeds of 22mph.

In general, there are 18 species of penguin in the world that are virtually all native to the southern hemisphere, apart from the Galapagos penguin.

Contrary to popular belief, not all penguins live in cold climates. Usually, we think of penguins huddling together to keep warm. In fact, the Galapagos penguin struggles to keep cool.

Sadly, about half of the world’s penguins are threatened by extinction, so we all need to work to keep them safe.

You can meet the Gentoo penguins at The Deep in Hull. Open daily from 10am until 6pm, adult tickets start from £12.50 and entry for children starts from £10.50. 

Read more localnational and international news on HEY Today

Follow us on Facebook and Twitter

Published: Tuesday 25th April 2017 by Courtney Farrow

Comments (0)

Local business search