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Münchener Tierpark Hellabrunn AG

02/05/2021 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 02/05/2021 03:00

Hellabrunn Zoo says goodbye to its gentoo penguins

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Copyright: Tierpark Hellabrunn / Gemma Borrell

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Copyright: Tierpark Hellabrunn / Dennis Reininger

In the early hours of Monday morning, a specially-modified animal transporter rolled out of Hellabrunn Zoo's gates with precious cargo - six gentoo penguins on a journey to their new homes. The aquatic birds had a smooth trip and arrived safely in Pairi Daiza and in Valencia where they met their new enclosure mates and fellow species ¬- who are in fact a different subspecies, because the goal of the move is to ensure the conservation of two different gentoo penguin subspecies.

Native to the Falkland Islands, the gentoo penguins that were kept at the zoo in Munich were the subantarctic gentoo subspecies. There are a total of around 150 individuals of this subspecies living in small groups in zoo across Europe. These groups are now gradually being merged on the recommendation of the European Stud Book (ESB). Next year, Hellabrunn Zoo plans to replace the former penguin residents with a smaller subspecies called the Antarctic gentoo. Although there are currently just under 500 individuals of this subspecies living in zoos, they are only found in a few zoos. The population will therefore be divided in smaller groups with better distribution.

'If you want to keep a species with a healthy genetic diversity in zoos on a long-term basis, you need a certain population size with a corresponding diversity of genetic material,' explains Beatrix Köhler, curator of penguins at Hellabrunn Zoo. 'By following the recommendation of the Stud Book and exchanging the subspecies, Hellabrunn is ensuring the best long-term survival chances of the European zoo populations of both subspecies.'

The move also gives the zoo an opportunity to upgrade the Penguin House's technical installations, some of which are getting a little old. This includes updating the thermal insulation system as well as the expansion of the cooling and filter systems. The renovation is planned for 2022. Upon completion, visitors will once again be able to see three species of penguins in the Polar World: 'The difference between the two subspecies can hardly be seen,' says Köhler. 'Antarctic gentoo penguins are just slightly smaller.'

There are 18 different species of penguin. Gentoo penguins are members of the brush-tailed penguin genus.

There are currently three species of penguins living at Hellabrunn Zoo: The king penguins and rockhopper penguins live together in the Polar World, while the Humboldt penguins reside in a separate enclosure.