Zoo closed? Penguins get to go on excursion instead

Singapore Zoo's African penguins taking a morning walk at a children's playground. Enrichment activities are designed to be varied to keep them engaged. "We hope to take this opportunity to bring the welfare of the animals to another level," said WRS
Singapore Zoo's African penguins taking a morning walk at a children's playground. Enrichment activities are designed to be varied to keep them engaged. "We hope to take this opportunity to bring the welfare of the animals to another level," said WRS assistant manager Ravan Tan.PHOTO: WILDLIFE RESERVES SINGAPORE
The penguins wandering around sea lion statues (above) and the orang utan island (right). The excursion happens two to three times a week and is limited to 20 minutes.
The penguins wandering around sea lion statues (above) and the orang utan island (right). The excursion happens two to three times a week and is limited to 20 minutes.PHOTO: WILDLIFE RESERVES SINGAPORE
Singapore Zoo's African penguins taking a morning walk at a children's playground. Enrichment activities are designed to be varied to keep them engaged. "We hope to take this opportunity to bring the welfare of the animals to another level," said WRS
The penguins wandering around sea lion statues and the orang utan island (above). The excursion happens two to three times a week and is limited to 20 minutes.PHOTO: WILDLIFE RESERVES SINGAPORE

The 14 African penguins in the Singapore Zoo have started on a new routine since the zoo closed on April 7 - the first in its history - to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

They have since been let out of their enclosure to explore other spaces in the zoo as part of a new set of enrichment programmes planned by Wildlife Reserves Singapore (WRS).

"We hope to take this opportunity to bring the welfare of the animals to another level," said WRS assistant manager Ravan Tan, 39.

African penguins, found across the south-western rocky coasts of Africa, are able to tolerate higher temperatures than other penguin species.

Even so, they are brought out only in the morning between eight and 10 o'clock, and their temperatures are constantly monitored. The latter is done by looking at the pinkness of their eye glands, which darken if their body temperature is too high.

The excursion happens two to three times a week and is limited to 20 minutes. Previously, they were confined to their indoor and outdoor exhibit areas.

Enrichment activities are designed to be varied to keep the penguins engaged. During one excursion, for instance, the penguins wandered around a children's playground, sea lion statues and the orang utan island near the penguin exhibit. They had also gone swimming at a pool and played with beach obstacles in a sandpit across from the Bornean orang utan island exhibit.

As the penguins tend to move as a group, the zookeeper only needs to guide the lead penguin in the right direction.

In their enthusiasm, they have also tried overtaking the zookeeper. Said Mr Tan: "The younger penguins are more mischievous and daring… they will not follow the crowd of other penguins, and so need to be carefully monitored."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 11, 2020, with the headline 'Zoo closed? Penguins get to go on excursion instead'. Subscribe