P-p-p-picked up by penguins
Gentoo penguins get their flippers in a flap over their favourite keeper
We’ve seen some weird things at the National SEA LIFE Centre Birmingham, but this is the first time we’ve witnessed a penguin-keeper love triangle.
Then again, Naomi’s no ordinary keeper. She has cared for the Gentoos amazingly well ever since they arrived in 2014, and Gentoo penguins are famously some of the animal kingdom’s most romantic creatures. So perhaps it’s not surprising that the two male Gentoos have fallen head over flipper for her, expressing their feelings in true penguin fashion by queueing up to bow down to her. This symbolises recognition between partners, and expresses mutual comfort and contentment.
Now things could get a little sticky – quite literally – because Gentoos often use sticks and stones as love tokens. Sticks help decorate the nests where they raise their chicks, while stones are given as romantic gifts.
Even with sticks and stones to set the tone, however, the prospects for our two lovebirds don’t look very good. And unlike most love triangles, it’s not because Naomi can’t choose between them. “However much one of them may think they’re my favourite, I could never single one out. I’m very lucky to have the job I do and my penguin pals are a big reason for that – they make coming into work an absolute pleasure,” says Naomi. “I love them both equally – but not like that. Can’t we just stay friends?”
The Birmingham penguin colony and similar colonies at other SEA LIFE centres help raise awareness of the conservation needs of penguin species across the globe.
Though not officially endangered, there have been sharp declines in some Gentoo populations which have resulted in overall numbers falling. Some 30% of Gentoos live on the Falkland Islands and SEA LIFE and the SEA LIFE Trust are partnering Falklands Conservation to help protect their habitat on the islands and carry out work to counter the harmful impacts of oil exploration, tourism and fisheries.