Photo - © Mark Owens
Edinburgh Zoo’s penguin colony welcomed some unusual swimming partners this week when they were joined by a group of professional divers from the British Army.
Two officers and 12 non commission officers and sappers from the 39 Engineer Regiment spent four days with the penguins to conduct a specialised survey of the Zoo’s 18 year old penguin pool.
Roslin Talbot, Head Keeper of Penguins and Sea Lions said, ‘We noticed recently that water levels in the penguin pool were dropping, but couldn’t identify any obvious leaks from the outside. Employing a commercial diving company to survey our pool would cost us thousands of pounds, so when the army offered to do a complimentary survey we were delighted.’
Using self contained and surface supply military diving equipment, the divers recorded a detailed survey with a hand held camera to log the condition of the pool and identify any problem areas.
Captain Iain Thompson, Unit Diving Officer for the 39 Engineer Regiment said, ‘We had no idea what condition the pool would be in before we arrived because it has never had a professional underwater survey carried out before, but we didn’t discover any major problems.
‘We did highlight a few areas of concern including some minor cracking in the structure of the pool and general wear and tear to the pool’s membrane, but we’ve carried out some remedial work to seal the cracks and remove the damaged material. This should stop any leaks in the meantime.’
The survey and footage taken by the army will be important to the Zoo going forward, allowing RZSS to monitor the condition of the pool and prepare for any maintenance in the future.
Captain Thompson continued, ‘Obviously this was a tricky exercise as we didn’t want to disrupt the penguins, but I’m pleased to say the survey went really well. Not only did we collect some good quality information for the Zoo, but we managed to achieve some of our own diving and training objectives as a team. It has certainly been one of the most unusual surveys we have carried out, but we were happy to help!’
Roslin added, ‘Although the penguins were initially very wary of the divers, by the second day curiosity took hold and the whole exercise proved to be good enrichment for them. The gentoo penguins were particularly interested, darting up and down the pool to find out what the divers were up and showing off their own diving skills!’
Michaela Crosthwaite, PR Officer 0131 314 0312
• Edinburgh Zoo has the largest outdoor penguin pool in the world.
• There are three different kinds of penguin at the Zoo. Currently there are 19 rockhoppers, 10 king penguins and 186 gentoo penguins.
• The daily penguin parade is still one of the most popular attractions at the Zoo. The parade began in 1951 when a keeper accidentally left the gate open. The penguins went for a short walk and then returned to their enclosure.