Edinburgh Zoo has a large and renowned collection of penguins – renowned for their daily “Penguin Parade” – when a (variable) number of penguins will take a short stroll along the pathway outside their enclosure at 2 pm each day if they are so inclined. They are prevented from going farther afield by a tight wall of spectators lined up along the edge of the path and a moving barrier of zoo guides in front of them making sure the parade ends with the birds going back into their area. It all started when some penguins got loose quite accidentally some decades ago (1951 to be precise) and were such a big hit that it became a regular zoo feature.
Their habitat was renovated last year, so the parade was suspended for a while; luckily the new digs were in place and the parade reinstated recently, just in time for my visit. (Let us, for now, not think about any possibility that Edinburgh Zoo could be thinning any of their critters and feeding them to the carnivorous residents. When I was in Edinburgh, Copenhagen’s activities had not made the news).
Only four penguins went walkabout the day I was there which made for a brief event and no real chance for a decent photo. Not to worry, the new penguin enclosure keeps visitors up close and personal, whether the penguins are getting fed, waddling around in a chummy penguinly fog or clustering around the guides during the penguin-spiel. Make no mistake, the penguins knew the routine; they were just jostling to be in the best position when the lunch bucket appeared!
The cutest and most numerous penguins in residence are the Gentoos. They sport a white strap of fur across the tops of their heads, stand two to two and a half feet tall.
Then there are the King penguins; looking a lot like Emperors only shorter.
The flashiest species here, even if only medium-sized as penguins go, are the Rockhoppers, with flowing blond eyebrow plumes and spiky top hair that make them look like a bunch of mad orchestra conductors.
One activity that the penguins are guaranteed to participate in is feeding time.
Assuming that a penguin will fade to the back of the pack after gulping down its share of flipper-sized fish would be wrong. There’s a definite skill to feeding a large bunch of jostling critters and making sure that they all get the correct amount of food. Different colors on their flipper-bands helps identify each individual. These guys were like little Hoovers! They reminded me of the seagulls in Finding Nemo (“Mine! Mine! Mine!”)