Friday, July 30, 2010

Six Antarctic Penguins at Dubai Aquarium

Aquatic attraction: Breeding Penguins

Come 2011 and six Antarctic penguins at Dubai Aquarium might be ready to breed
  • By Nadeem Hanif, Staff Reporter
  • July 29, 2010
Swimming beauties:
  • Gentoo penguins in their enclosure at the Dubai Mall Aquarium
  • Image Credit: Xpress/ Karen Dias
Dubai: Rare Antarctic penguins could be bred at a popular Dubai aquatic attraction from next year.
The gentoo penguins have been settling into their home at the custom-built Melting Ice Exhibition in Dubai Aquarium, Dubai Mall, for the last seven weeks. The six birds are about a year old and have put on almost 20 per cent more weight from the initial 8kg that they weighed when they first arrived in June.

The extra fat will help sustain them when they undergo moulting — losing and re-growing their feathers over the next 30 days.

Paul Hamilton, Dubai Aquarium Curator, said the weight gain was normal and an important phase in the birds' development.

Moulting period

"They go through moulting once a year and during that period they can't go into the water and fish because they lose their protection. They rely on the extra fat to sustain them through this period," he said,adding that during this phase they look like "plucked chickens".

The current exhibit is triple the size recommended for six penguins and the aquarium plans to encourage breeding between the three males and three females.

"They can start breeding when they are about two years old and we expect to add about one newborn penguin a year. After the first generation is born, the common practice is to switch birds with other zoos and aquariums to keep the gene pool fresh," Hamilton said. To encourage breeding, aquarium staff will have to create some environmental cues such as temperature change for summer and winter, along with changing the light durations. The penguins arrived in the climate-controlled section of a passenger jet from Edinburgh, Scotland.

"They were part of a colony of 100 penguins in Scotland. So it took them some time to get used to the situation as they were only six. But now they have got used to the handlers and aren't fazed by people looking through the acrylic windows at them," Hamilton said.

At present, the exhibit is being kept at 4°C, which is mild for the penguins, but it can be dropped to 0°C. The birds are part of 33,000 other aquatic animals from over 220 species kept in the zoo, including crocodiles, hammerhead sharks and otters.

Entrance for the attraction at Dubai Mall is Dh50.


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