Plans for a new £750,000 enclosure at Edinburgh Zoo to house the Capital’s famous penguin colony were unveiled today.
In March, the zoo’s popular penguin parade attraction had to be suspended and two-thirds of the birds were farmed out to other zoos, after leaks were found in their pool.
But The Royal Zoological Society of Scotland (RZSS) today launched a campaign to raise funds for a new enclosure, which will see water slides and a beach built for the penguins. The RZSS intend to raise £100,000 of the total required.
It is also hoped that there will be a better view for visitors at the penguins’ new home.
Following the discovery of the leak, the 160-bird colony had to be split up, with some being sent to Belfast, Denmark and England, although some stayed in the Capital.
Then, it was said that 50 of the birds would never return as maintenance work began on the pool, which had been home to King, Gentoo and Rockhopper penguins for two decades.
At the time of the closure, RZSS interim chief executive Hugh Roberts said: “It is only fair after the interest our giant pandas have received recently that we lavish some attention on our penguins, as they are synonymous with Edinburgh Zoo and one of our most popular attractions.
“After the maintenance programme has been undertaken, next year we will then aesthetically upgrade the penguin pool, enhancing the layout, painting the enclosure and making it as immersive as possible.”
Until its closure, when water was allowed to drain naturally from the pool for five weeks, the daily penguin parade was one of the most popular attractions at the zoo. Edinburgh Zoo had the largest outdoor penguin pool in the world.
Colin Oulton, Bird Team Leader at Edinburgh Zoo, said at the time of the penguin move: “Our penguins are all going to zoos with dedicated facilities and it goes without saying that they will be extremely well cared for.”
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.
A daily penguin talk has been given at the zoo in the absence of the parade.
Over the past century Edinburgh Zoo has built an international reputation for its successful penguin breeding programme.
Meanwhile, Mr Roberts was today quoted as saying that the zoo is on a much firmer footing since it secured its two pandas, Tian Tian and Yang Guang.
He said: “The real problem here was perhaps that people had lost trust and for me it was about rebuilding and regaining that trust. The fundamental thing about the pandas was never really in doubt, the Chinese don’t enter into long-term arrangements and then throw them overboard just because one or two things are not going so well.
“The UK government, the Scottish government weren’t going to let that all happen, we certainly weren’t going to let it happen, so I never had any doubt that was about making it happen.”
Mr Roberts hands over to new chief executive Prof Chris West next week.