- Humboldt penguins live on rocky islands on the warm Pacific waters of Peru and Chile - not in the Antarctic
- PETA slammed the event as 'tragic'
Looking bewildered, five penguins scuttle unsteadily across an ice rink in front of more than 150 screaming children.
The five were released to perform for the crowds as part of the launch of a pre-Christmas 'Ice Festival' at a shopping centre.
But last night the event's organisers were condemned after it emerged they are actually Humboldt penguins – tropical birds which will never have seen ice before.
Scroll down for video
On show: The penguins were released on to an ice rink at the Liverpool ONE shopping centre
Miles apart: The Humboldt penguin (left) lives on rocky islands in South America while Emperor penguins (right) live in the Antarctic and enjoy freezing conditions
Professor Rory Wilson, of Swansea University, who has studied penguins for 32 years, said: 'Humboldts are a tropical penguin used to a very warm climate in Chile and they will never, ever come across ice in their natural environment. If they looked cold then they probably were.'
A spokesman for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals said of the event at Liverpool's ONE shopping complex three weeks ago: 'This can only have left them petrified and disoriented.'
TV cameras rolled as a keeper tried to coax the birds with fish as they walked around the arena.
PETA, which has celebrity supporters including Mickey Rourke, Jessica Jane Clement and Pamela Anderson, slammed the event as ‘disrespectful, out of touch and tragic’.
VIDEO: Shopping centre puts live South American penguins in ice rink
Entertainment: Children and parents watched as the penguins walked across the ice rink in Liverpool
Out of their comfort zone? PETA said the animals could have been left petrified and disorientated
A spokesperson from PETA said: ‘Anyone who has seen the beautiful film March of the Penguins would find this publicity stunt disrespectful, out of touch and tragic.
‘As the movie illustrates these fascinating birds have a rich and free life.
‘They do not deserve to be exploited as props, kept in tiny enclosures and denied all that is natural and familiar to them.
‘Forcing penguins to endure the stress of being hauled around and released onto a patch of ice in front of hordes of shoppers can only leave them petrified and disoriented.’
On show: The five penguins were coaxed across the ice as spectators looked on
Day out in Liverpool: The penguins were showcased to shoppers in the city
‘It is reckless and cruel to take Humboldt penguins or any animals and deliberately place them in a frightening and wholly unsuitable environment such as a tiny ice enclosure when they belong in the water and on the rocky islands off the coast of South America.’
Stephen Ware, a vet at Heythrop Zoological Gardens in Oxfordshire, which owns the penguins, said: 'At no time have the penguins exhibited any distress in their surroundings.'
A spokesman for Liverpool ONE said: 'Liverpool ONE prides itself on only working with reputable suppliers, we have a robust process in place to ensure that the health and safety of our shoppers, staff and suppliers is always of paramount importance in everything we do.
'The company that brought the penguins to Liverpool ONE is held in high regard in their industry. They have worked with high profile entertainment and educational organisations on an international scale and are experts in their field.
'Based on expert advice we are confident that the welfare of the penguins was always their priority.'