The Moscow Zoo has prepared an unusual New Year gift for people in Moscow. Six Gentoo (Subantarctic) penguins were brought to the zoo from Germany as part of a European programme for the conservation of this species in captivity. They live in an enclosure at the entrance to the House of Birds pavilion on the zoo’s old territory.
“Our new inhabitants, three males and three females aged two to 13, have been settling down in their enclosure, studying the pool and curiously looking at visitors. This very species of birds was spotted in the comedy Mr Popper’s Penguins in 2011 starring Jim Carrey. In the film, there are six penguins too. Our zoo is also home to Humboldt penguins and banded penguins. Both species are smaller than Gentoo penguins in height and, unlike the Antarctic species, prefer tropical heat to the winter cold. For this reason, they are kept indoors all year round where a comfortable microclimate is provided,” said General Director of the Moscow Zoo Svetlana Akulova.
The Gentoo penguin is the third largest penguin species. The height of an adult bird can be as much as 90cm. Besides this, these penguins are among some of the fastest developing a speed of 36km per hour when they are swimming under water. They are also able to dive more than 100m down into the water. They don’t usually swim for any lengthy periods of time though and only occasionally stay in the water for more than a few minutes.
The Gentoo penguins are endemic to the Antarctic (Falkland Islands,South Orkney Islands, South Sandwich Islands and other places as well). The birds aren’t very deft and even seem clumsy on land, but in the water their graceful movements can be envied. They need to quickly maneuver on the waves first of all to dodge the jaws of an orca or a leopard seal, penguins’ main natural enemies.
The appearance of the species bears some characteristic features. They stand out from other penguins due to their head markings, two white stripes around the eyes that meet on the top of the head. The black beak has a bright dark orange part with a red patch on each side. This is another distinctive feature along with the elongated tail. The latter may reach 15cm, including between 14-18 feathers. Due to this wonderful detail, the Gentoo penguins are often called brush-tailed.
This year, the Moscow Zoo welcomed several new inhabitants. A three-year-old pygmy hippopotamus female arrived from a small zoo in the town of Eskilstuna in Sweden. A rare female mane wolf was brought from Prague. The animal lives on the zoo’s old premises. This autumn, an aardvark appeared at the zoo too. This unique mammal has an anteater’s body, a pig’s snout, hare’s ears and a powerful tale, just like a kangaroo.