In 1951, a keeper left the door to the penguin’s enclosure open by mistake and a gentoo escaped. Followed by other birds, they went for a walkabout. The escape was so popular with visitors the penguin parade has been a part of the zoo’s daily routine ever since.
In early 2012, the parade stopped when the enclosure closed for renovation. Fifty-five penguins were sent to other zoos during the work, bringing the marching to a halt.
The new enclosure, called Penguins Rock, opened on March 15 and the gentoos have been practising their marching technique for the first parade on Friday.
Colin Oulton from the zoo said: "We have a mixture of both old and new birds taking part in the parade, with as many as seventeen birds participating in the practice runs. The practice runs have all gone pretty smoothly; the old pros got back into it right away and the new penguins were enthusiastic to join in. "Penguins are naturally inquisitive and they enjoy the opportunity the parade gives them each day. We don’t force any penguins to take part, or encourage them with food rewards – each penguin participates in the parade purely because it wants to."
As well as the Gentoo and Rockhopper penguins, the zoo’s five King penguins have returned in time for Easter. They took a little longer to get home as they started to moult earlier than usual. The process can be stressful, so it was decided to keep them in England until they had finished moulting.
Among them is Sir Nils Olav, the mascot of the Norwegian Royal Guard.
Mr Oulton said: "It was actually Sir Nils Olav holding everybody up as he was the last to moult. As the kings have only just returned to the zoo this week it is unlikely that any of them will be getting involved in the first official parade, but it won’t be too long before they are settled and ready to participate."
The penguin parade starts at 2.15pm on Friday at their enclosure.