07 June 2014

Ralph Penguin: Coldwater Specialist

Ralph and his O'Neill wetsuit.
Photo credit: Marwell Wildlife
UK - Ralph the Humboldt penguin, international star and Marwell Wildlife resident, has been given a trendy new wetsuit for a second consecutive year thanks to Californian (human) wetsuit brand O'Neill.

During his annual moult, Ralph loses his feathers quicker than other penguins, leaving him exposed to the elements. For the past six years he has worn a wetsuit when he starts to lose his feathers to protect him from the sun and keep him warm on colder evenings. 

In January 2013 he was his given his first O'Neill wetsuit. This year, with all Ralph’s swimming and grooming, that suit had seen better days. He needed a new one and O’Neill were keen to come to the penguin's rescue once again.

The team at O’Neill worked closely with Ralph to give him a high performance and more comfortable custom-made wetsuit, making slight adjustments to the previous one so that it is perfect for the penguin’s energetic lifestyle.

Ralph swims, eats and plays just like the other penguins. The rubber in the wetsuit, which is the same as a human’s wetsuit, is extremely flexible and doesn’t restrict his movement.

Craig Chennell, Team Manager and Marketing Assistant at O’Neill Wetsuits, said, "We are delighted to sign Ralph for a second year as Team O'Neill's ultimate Coldwater Specialist.

"Thanks to his constant testing and feedback, O'Neill and Techneopro have produced a more comfortable and better performance wetsuit using our latest technologies.

"Ralph will now be better protected than ever, allowing him to concentrate on the more important things without having to worry about getting cold or sunburned."

Anna Ing, Team Leader of Birds at Marwell said, “Ralph’s wetsuits see a lot of activity with him constantly on the go, swimming, climbing rocks and preening.

“He has been preening his wetsuit just as he would if he had feathers and his partner Coral has joined in too.

“Ralph is a very healthy bird, but for some reason his feathers drop out a long time before his new feathers grow back. Every year is different for Ralph and we can never be sure when he will lose his feathers, but as soon as he starts looking bald we put the wetsuit on him."

But while he might wear more labels than other penguins, Ralph's trendy swimwear hasn't gone to his head.

“This will be the sixth year Ralph has had a wetsuit, so he is used to wearing them and acts just like any other penguin in the colony,” Ing said.

Ralph's new suit [press release], 4 June 2014, Marwell Wildlife
Ralph struts his stuff in his new wetsuit [press release], 11 January 2013, Marwell Wildlife

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