As if wearing tiny little tuxedos weren’t enough, penguins are now upping the cute factor by donning form-fitting wetsuits. Wonder Twin is a female Adelie penguin at SeaWorld Orlando who looks sporting in her new outfit, which was fashioned to help her cope with feather loss, a condition which can occur naturally, says SeaWorld.
“We care for each of the penguins individually, so being able to make that kind of a difference for her is really cool,” said SeaWorld’s aviculturist TJ Dray.
Adorned with a SeaWorld logo across the chest, the little black suit will help Wonder Twin regulate her body temperature while still allowing her to carry on normal (very cute) activities such as swimming, napping and waddling around. SeaWorld staff says that the feathers on Wonder Twin’s bald spots may eventually grow back.
Other captive penguins have been given wetsuits for feather loss, according to the Guardian, including an African penguin at the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco named Pierre and a Humboldt penguin named Ralph at Marwell Wildlife in Hampshire, England.
Facing low attendance and seeing its shares falling to a record low, SeaWorld continues to battle against pressure from animal rights groups and a public which has become increasingly ill at ease with the concept of captive animal displays. SeaWorld announced last year that it would end its captive breeding program for killer whales and that it would no longer be offering whale shows at its San Diego park.
SeaWorld is not alone in being forced to adapt to changing public and cultural norms. From established zoos and animal reserves to travelling circuses and roadside attractions, entertainment venues around the world are feeling the negative effects of the public’s growing distaste and disdain for animal acts. Stories of purported cruelty at zoos and other venues routinely dot today’s internet landscape, often with severe repercussions for the attraction’s reputation and bottom line.
Earlier this year, a video of a walrus named Zeus at Marineland amusement park in Niagara Falls, Ontario, was released by a former trainer, one which showed a seemingly thin and frail animal listlessly ambling around its performance stage. The video received more than 72,000 views on YouTube and was shared by animal rights group PETA, causing Marineland to explain in a statement that Zeus “has always been a long and lean animal” and that like all walruses, he drops his winter weight in the summer and can often appear sluggish and slow when moving on land.
The company also countered by saying that such videos were the product of animal activist groups trying to drum up fundraising dollars. “These allegations routinely arise when activists’ groups need publicity and are trying to raise money. They follow a fundraising cycle rather than being related to any genuine concerns about the health of any animal,” says Marineland in a statement to the Niagara Falls Review.
In other news, the travel website TripAdvisor recently announced that it would no longer be selling tickets to animal attractions, saying the new policy will apply to entertainment venues “where tourists come into physical contact with captive wild animals or endangered species.” The prohibition will include attractions such as elephant rides, petting tigers and swimming with dolphins. The move has been endorsed by the United Nations World Tourism Organisation, which applauded TripAdvisor’s actions “to strengthen its corporate social responsibility in the area of animal welfare.”