I was over the moon to get invited to an event at London Zoo - in the penguin beach!! *squeal*. As an animal lover I've never really been a fan of zoos, although I can see their benefits for keeping some species of animal alive. And it can be nice to get real up close and personal with an animal who wouldn't give you the time of day in the wild. One time a polar bear at Central Park Zoo made eye contact with me through a window, we were right next to one another, and it was breathtaking. But if there hadn't been a thick glass wall between us I'm pretty sure he would have rudely killed me with a swipe of his massive paw.
I love penguins so much! They manage to be both adorably cute and utterly sinister; they make good cartoon villains – see Madagascar and Wallace and Gromit. The ones at Penguin Beach are the Peruvian, smaller, scampering cousins of the cuddly Antarctic penguins. They move much faster and have such a comedy waddle. When I arrived I couldn't stop taking photos and giggling at the little tykes.
They loved having a group enter their living quarters at 6pm when it's usually bed time. The zookeeper was telling us that they were showing off, and probably a little bit over-tired. Awww, like wee kids! The event was run by The Royal Society of Literature to showcase the poetry of Sara Wheeler, the first female writer-in-residence at the South Pole. There was also a talk from a professor of penguins (Prof. Tim Blackburn, director of the Institute of Zoology), and lots of prosecco to sip on as we hung out with the little waddling ones.
After some bubbles and a walkabout, we settled down to hear Sara. She is so fascinating, it's amazing just how much inspiration can be found in a place where there is pretty much just snow and penguins, and probably rude polar bears.
By 8pm it was way past the penguins' bedtime, and they starting to get a bit confused by it all. They even started taking themselves to bed, but not before one last feed.
This was the cutest thing because the one and only Rockhopper penguin, the little wispy haired chap above, suddenly sprung into action and true to his name bounced along the rocks like some kind of video game character. There was no way he was gonna miss out on his fish supper. This little guy below also made me laugh when he suddenly popped out from round a pole when I was taking photos. See what I mean? Cute and malevolent.
Just when I thought the Rockhopper couldn't get any funnier he stood on a rock with his wings wide open. He remained completely still like this for about twenty minutes. It looked like he was dramatically drinking in the limelight, but we were told that he was just drying his wings.
This has definitely been one of my favourite events. What's not to like? Prosecco, poetry and penguins! Keep your eye open for RSL events at London Zoo, they have one coming up in the Gorilla enclosure!
Side note: I took my hat off to the duck interloper! Living the life of riley on another species' beach. I like your style, ducky! Penguin Beach can be visited as part of an entrance ticket to the zoo, and there are set feeding times throughout the day.