Fairy Penguin Becomes The First In The World To Have An MRI Scan

SEA LIFE Weymouth shares adorable images as Chaka the penguin takes on first of its kind examination.

Chaka, the Fairy Penguin, who calls SEA LIFE Weymouth his home, becomes the first of his species to undergo an MRI scan, in what is believed to be a world-first. 


The scan is a significant milestone in the field of veterinary medicine and the care provided to the Fairy Penguin species. Chaka the penguin undertook the MRI scan at Cave Veterinary Specialists in Somerset, to investigate a balance issue which he had been experiencing that had meant the occasional wobble when waddling. 

The scan went well and showed nothing of concern for Chaka, who whilst he may sometimes experience a little “wobble in his waddle”, is otherwise healthy and lives a full and enriched life, feeding and interacting normally with his fellow penguins.


An important moment for other Fairy Penguins, the scan may lead to further advancements in the knowledge of the species as the MRI images can now be shared with other vets, zoos, aquariums and sanctuaries around the world that also look after Fairy Penguins. It’s hoped that the information could also be offered to support the conservation of the world’s wild population of Fairy Penguins. 


Weymouth SEA LIFE Adventure Park is home to Europe’s only colony of Fairy Penguins, sometimes known as ‘Little Blue Penguins’. The colony welcomed six chicks to the family in 2020, with the animal care team hoping to create a sustainable population of Fairy Penguins in Europe.

"This MRI scan is significant in enabling us to start to gather data about the skull and the bone structure for this species, as after comprehensive research, we could not find any historical MRI images for a Little Blue Penguin elsewhere. This first scan of a Fairy Penguin will therefore help to widen the knowledge of the species, for both us and others around the world, helping us ensure we’re providing the best possible care for our family of penguins.”

Kico Iraola, Curator at SEA LIFE Weymouth

“Performing an MRI on a penguin was something totally new for the team here at Cave. Although the MRI procedure itself is fairly straightforward, the biggest challenge was ensuring Chaka was as settled as possible for the scan. Unlike the cats and dogs, we regularly treat, penguins can hold their breath for a considerable time, so our dedicated team made sure to closely monitor Chaka during the scan. We are delighted that all went to plan, and we are happy the MRI scan was successful. Chaka’s results have come back to show no detrimental issue to his health, and his scan now brings a range of new knowledge to help support future care of other penguins."

Pippa Tucker, Cave Veterinary Specialists

“Chaka has become a penguin pioneer. Although his own waddle may still be a little wobbly, he has made great strides for the world of veterinary science and the penguin world.”

Kico Iraola, Curator at SEA LIFE Weymouth