6 facts you didn’t know about Edinburgh’s penguins

Penguins in their pebble ritual at Edinburgh Zoo. Picture Ian Rutherford

Penguins in their pebble ritual at Edinburgh Zoo. Picture Ian Rutherford

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Edinburgh Zoo has been home to penguins for over 100 years with the animals being a popular attraction at the zoo.

Naturally, the people of Edinburgh have also taken to the penguins with the adorable animals being a popular feature for the city.

Uniformed soldiers of the King of Norway's Guard parade for inspection by their mascot, king penguin Nils Olav Picture; Jane Barlow

Uniformed soldiers of the King of Norway's Guard parade for inspection by their mascot, king penguin Nils Olav Picture; Jane Barlow

Today marks World Penguin Day and what better way to celebrate than by getting to know our penguins at home!

Here’s 6 facts you probably didn’t know about Edinburgh’s penguins.

1 We have a King Penguin, King’s Guard

Admittedly, this fact will probably be known by most Edinburgh locals, but only because we’re probably home to the most famous penguin in the world! Brigadier Sir Nils Olav is a king penguin who resides in Edinburgh Zoo. He serves as mascot and Colonel-in-Chief of the Norwegian King’s Guard.

Nesting Gentoo Penguins and King Penguins at Edinburgh Zoo. Picture; Greg Macvean

Nesting Gentoo Penguins and King Penguins at Edinburgh Zoo. Picture; Greg Macvean

2- The first ‘Penguin Parade’ was in 1951 and was an accident!

The Penguin Parade is a popular Edinburgh Zoo tradition which involves the penguins marching around their pool as visitors watch on. However, the first parade took place in 1951 quite by accident. A plucky penguin and has pals went for a walk around the pool after a gate was mistakenly left open. The rest as they say, is history.

3- The first King penguin born outside of the Southern Hemisphere was born in Edinburgh

In 1919 an egg was laid and the chick was duly hatched – making it the first king penguin birth outside the southern hemisphere! Penguins are an iconic part of the Zoo as they were the first species bred successfully by the Society.

Children flank the Penguin parade at Edinburgh Zoo in July 1962

Children flank the Penguin parade at Edinburgh Zoo in July 1962

4- The enclosure is shaped like the boat that delivered the first penguins to Edinburgh Zoo

Edinburgh lawyer Thomas Gillespie, who founded Edinburgh Zoo, went to Leith Docks to meet a steamer ‘Coronda’ which was bringing a gift of two elephant seals and 6 penguins (four kings, one gentoo and one macaroni) from the Firm of Christian Salvesen. The shape of a ship’s bow seen at the penguin enclosure today honours the penguins’ historical links to the shipping company.

5- Edinburgh has Europe’s largest outdoor penguin pool

The pool contains approx. 1,200m3 of water or 1.2 million litres of water. That’s enough for 4,000 bathes, to flush a toilet 120,000 times or to fill ½ an Olympic swimming pool making it Europe’s largest outdoor penguin pool.

6- You can watch the penguins live

Edinburgh’s penguins are so popular that a webcam gives fans of the penguins access to their daily activity. Fans can tune in at almost any time to see what the penguins are up to at Edinburgh Zoo.