Zoo forced to use fake plastic penguins in new £60k enclosure – thanks to nationwide shortage
A zoo has been forced to use fake plastic penguins in its new state-of-the-art £60,000 enclosure – due to a nationwide shortage of the animals.
Telford Exotic Zoo in Shropshire opened their ambitious new penguin exhibit in anticipation of welcoming a batch of Humboldt penguins.
The zoo even sent staff on a penguin keeper course so that they could be prepared for the new arrivals.
But now, after months of preparation, keepers have been told the penguins will not be arriving because of a national outbreak of avian malaria.
Zoo owner Scott Adams, 35, said that he still had no idea when the penguins would be arriving, if ever, and so has been forced to instead stock the pool with six plastic models.
Scott said: “Part of our plans for expansion were that we’d build a penguin enclosure.
“Everybody’s been very excited as the plans have come together.
“This is the biggest and most expensive project we’ve done.
“It cost nearly £60,000, which for a small community zoo is a big investment for us.
“The staff have been on penguin keeper courses and were ready to welcome them.
“But since we began this process avian malaria has struck the UK. It took a lot of zoos by surprise and wiped out a lot of penguins.
“We’re using the plastic models so children can still see and learn about them until penguins arrive.
“It’s specially made for penguins, and not really suitable for anything else, so we have no alternative.”
A specialist company spent a month at the zoo in May this year creating the penguin enclosure.
Scott said as many larger zoos are looking to replenish their penguins, this has caused a national shortfall which means smaller zoos like his will be unable to obtain the birds.
But despite the setback, he is still on the lookout for penguins to welcome to his zoo.
Scott said: “Once we finished the enclosure it became apparent there weren’t an penguins to be available in the foreseeable future.
“There were lots of disappointed staff, as well as kids and visitors.
“We’re still looking to secure the penguins. If anyone has any captive bred penguins we’d be happy to look at them.”