Bald penguin given wetsuit to prevent sunburn
When Ralph the penguin lost his feathers it looked like he wouldn’t be able to swim with his friends at Marwell Wildlife – until he was fitted for a mini wetsuit to stop him getting sunburn.
Ralph the penguin in a wetsuit Photo: SOLENT
Unlike all his fellow Humboldt penguins, who lose their old feathers over a few weeks to make way for a fresh set, Ralph’s fell out in just one day.
And with nothing to protect him from the weather he was at risk of severe sun burn.
He faced spending a depressing three weeks indoors, away from his group and his young chicks.
But keepers took pity on him and fashioned his own wetsuit from the leg of a suit which was donated by a member of staff’s husband.
The nine-year-old penguin couldn’t be happier with his new clothes, which have caused a stir at his enclosure in Marwell Wildlife, near Winchester, Hants.
Helen Jeffreys, from Marwell Wildlife, said: "Ralph’s really taken to his new suit, he’s doing really well.
"He doesn’t really seem to notice the difference – he’s swimming around the enclosure with all the other penguins as usual.
"It’s not inhibiting him in any way and it’s not bothering him. He’s just getting on with his daily business.
"All the other penguins, on the other hand, were intrigued by his new clothes they spent a good while checking him out.
"But when they realised it was still Ralph under the suit they seemed quite happy and don’t really pay it any attention anymore."
When penguins moult over a period of around three weeks every year their old feathers are replaced with a new, clean set.
But Ralph has baffled keepers by losing all his feathers in just one day, leaving him strangely bald apart from his head.
David White, who is assistant manager of Penguin World at Marwell, said he and colleagues thought about covering Ralph in suncream before hitting on the wetsuit idea.
Mr White, 31, said: "We noticed he was getting pink and feared suncream would just wash off so we decided to try to make him a wetsuit.
"We used the leg of a man’s wetsuit and cut a holes in it for his head and wings.
"It works really well. We thought he would try to peck it off but Ralph seems to love it.
"He’s been bombing around in it and acting like a normal penguin, although the others have been giving him a few odd looks. I think they might actually want one now.
"It’s certainly a strange sight and Ralph must be the first scuba penguin but he seems so at ease that we’ve been thinking maybe we should get him a mask and snorkel as well.
"Ralph is perfectly healthy so we don’t know why his feathers all drop out at once.
"If we hadn’t come up with the wetsuit we would have had to keep him inside to stop him burning.
"That would have made him really miserable because penguins are such sociable creatures. This way he can happily mess around with the rest of the group."
Ralph will now wear his suit for around three weeks while his new feathers grow.
Miss Jeffreys added: "Ralph was so bald he was at real risk of getting sunburned on a sunny day.
"In the past the keepers have kept him indoors for around three weeks until his new feathers have come through.
"But that wasn’t any fun for him. He couldn’t be with his group and this year he’s got two chicks to look after so we just couldn’t separate them.
"One of the keepers had the idea of making him his very own wetsuit.
"The material is perfect because it allowed him to go into the water and it’s flexible so he could still use his flippers and allow him to have a scratch.
"The keepers didn’t have any trouble getting the suit on him – Ralph didn’t mind at all."
Visitors are already flocking in to his enclosure to see Ralph parading around.
Miss Jeffreys said: "All the visitors are fascinated by Ralph’s clothes – he’s causing a bit of a stir.
"He’s the only one out of 30 penguins with a special suit so he certainly stands out.
"We get lots of questions from them – they want to know what he’s wearing and why or ask if he’s a new breed!
"Everyone has commented on how cute he looks. He’s certainly become a favourite and I think he’ll become a bit of a star now."
Humboldt penguins are native to South America, breeding in coastal Peru and Chile.
They can live for around 30 years in captivity.
A cocker spaniel had a lucky escape after twice falling off a cliff and then swimming nearly a mile to the safety of a yacht.
Buddy the dog.
The five-year-old pet, called Buddy, was being walked along a coastal path when it chased a rabbit and fell down the 100ft cliff near Studland, Dorset.
It ended up in the sea and as it tried to scramble back up it fell 30ft back into the water.
The dog then changed tactics and paddled out to sea where it was spotted two hours later by a couple in an anchored yacht.
The pair took it aboard and gave it water while their own pet dog, also called Buddy, made a fuss of him.
The rescue was finally completed when a passing jet-skier gave the dog a lift back to the beach where he was reunited with his owner, Steve Kingsley, 59.
Mr Kingsley said: "I can’t believe he went through all of that and lived to tell the tale, it’s a miracle really.
"I only took him out for a quiet walk and yet he managed to trigger this huge scare involving almost everyone on the beach and at sea.
"He is so lucky. I think I will buy him a lottery ticket this weekend."
Coastguards had put out an alert for any boats in the area to look out for a dog in the sea. Steve Moran and his wife, Annette, heard the alert on board their 46ft ketch.
They spotted the dog through binoculars and picked it up in a rigid inflatable boat.
Mr Moran, 45, a dock master from Totton, Hants, said: "He was quite distressed when we reached him and was whimpering.
"We took him back to our boat and gave him some water and some food which we had for our Jack Russell, Buddy.
"I was really surprised he was still alive."
The couple told coastguards of the rescue and a jet-skier drove out to the yacht to collect the dog and take it back to the beach.
Mr Kingsley, who owns the dog with his wife Ros, 48, and their three children, Thomas, 20, Sarah, 18 and Jack 16, said: "I couldn’t believe he was still in one piece.
"He was absolutely fine and was full of the joys of spring. God knows where he thought he was going – the Isle of Wight probably!"
The Telegraph.co.uk take a look at some of the weird animals on the planet.
The star-nosed mole’s snout has 22 fleshy tentacles that are used to identify food by touch. Often found in North America, it lives in wet lowland areas and eats small invertebrates, aquatic insects, worms and molluscs
The Hispaniolan solenodon, a strange looking shrew-like creature with a long snout and specialised teeth capable of delivering venom. Only two solenodon species exist today, one in Haiti and the Dominican Republic, and the other in Cuba.
Seapigs live on, or just underneath, the bottom of the ocean and feed on the mud of the seafloor. Scientists haven’t yet worked out how they are such a successful deep-sea creature.
The blobfish is a gelatinous mass with a density slightly less than that of the water it occupies. This helps it maintain buoyancy. Hovering just above the sea-floor, the blobfish gobbles edible matter that floats past it.
The long eared jerboa is a nocturnal mouse-like rodent found in the deserts of China and Mongolia. It has a long tail, long legs and extremely large ears. Being such a rare creature, it is in danger of extinction.
The slender loris inhabits tropical moist lowland forests found in India or Sri Lanka. The species is threatened by habitat loss.
The most distinctive trait of the proboscis monkey is the male’s large protruding nose. It has been suggested that the female proboscis monkey prefers big-nosed males.
The white turtle, whose creamy colour is offset by a few hints of pink, features prominently in Chinese culture – a character in Journey to the West is turned into one for his wrongdoings.
The Telegraph.co.uk reported that:
A grieving mother has been fined £86 by crematorium officials after she spent too long saying goodbye to her five-week-old child.
Terrie Rouse was ordered to pay the penalty after she sat by her son Zane’s coffin for an extra 10 minutes before watching it disappear through the curtains for cremation.
But she was left shocked when officials at the crematorium in Crownhill, Milton Keynes, told her she would have to pay for the extra time – at a rate of £8.60 a minute.
Ms Rouse, 32, told the Milton Keynes Citizen: "The vicar asked if I would like to spend a bit more time saying goodbye. I sat by the coffin for 10 minutes, telling my son how much we loved him and begging him not to be scared."
But her grief turned to anger when officials asked her to pay the £86.
Lee Smythe, Zane’s father, who was cradling the little boy when he died at their home in Great Linford, condemned the penalty as "sick and disgusting".
He told the paper: "Terrie was weeping hysterically. She just wanted a few extra minutes to say goodbye to our much-loved little boy. How could anyone be cruel enough to charge for this?"
Officials from Milton Keynes Council, which runs the crematorium, routinely impose an extra charge if any funeral over runs its allocated half-hour slot. This is paid on top of the standard cremation fee.
The council has now refunded the charge, because of "extenuating circumstances".
A spokesman said: "We understand that sometimes more time may be preferred and so families are offered the chance to book extra time if they need it. This means when funerals that have not taken up this option over-run, a fee is automatically charged. However, when we learnt that there were extenuating circumstances we, of course, refunded the extra charge."