Icy, splashin' fun for Penguin Awareness Day

20 January 2020

The penguin colony at Melbourne Zoo have been waddling, splashing and sliding their way through a fun-filled week of summer in celebration of a very special occasion - Penguin Awareness Day.

Whilst the mid-point of January is known for holidays, fun and time at the beach for many Australians, it also marks an important annual milestone that aims to raise awareness about the feathery-faced waterbirds.

Keepers this week gifted the Zoo’s penguins some interesting treats to enjoy. Ice blocks with frozen fish were on the menu, and the penguins didn't hesitate to get in on the fun.

Some used the ice blocks as an impromptu slide, whilst others decided to jump on and peck into their icy-cool surprises.

Over many years, penguins have waddled and danced into the hearts of people all over the world, but Melbourne Zoo Wild Sea keeper Elizabeth Liddicoat said many aren’t aware of the plight that the species face in the wild. 

“Plastics and pollution are finding their way into penguins’ natural habitats, from Australia all the way down to Antarctica,” Ms Liddicoat said. “So it’s really important that we raise some awareness about penguins and what people can do to help.”

Zoos Victoria’s conservation initiative Bubbles not Balloons asks the public to replace outdoor balloons with wildlife-friendly alternatives. This prevents plastic from entering waterways and endangering marine wildlife through consumption or entanglement.

“One of the things we’re asking people to do is if you’re having a party at home, instead of blowing balloons and releasing them outside, just blow bubbles instead,” Ms Liddicoat said. “It’s really easy; bubbles are a lot of fun and will help reduce the amount of plastic finding its way into the ocean.”

In addition to marine pollution, penguins face additional threats including habitat destruction, fisheries and introduced predators.

Melbourne Zoo is home to two of the 18 species of penguins – Little penguins and Fiordland penguins. Little penguins are native to Australia and are the smallest species of all penguins. Fiordland penguins are classified as vulnerable in the wild, are native to New Zealand, and have distinctive yellow plumes above their eyes. 

Visitors can learn about how they can protect penguins and see them up close at Melbourne Zoo’s Wild Sea precinct from 9am-5pm seven days a week.