Dippy the arthritic penguin settles into new access-ramp home

Dippy the Arthritic Penguin Settles Into His New Home

An ageing arthritic penguin is settling into his new home - which comes complete with access ramp and "meals on wheels" service.

Dippy the Humboldt penguin moved from the Seaview Wildlife Encounter on the Isle of Wight, which is closing, to the Great Yarmouth Sea Life Centre in Norfolk on Thursday night.

At 20 years old, a bird with his condition would be unlikely to survive in the wild, but thanks to special adaptations at his new home, he is expected to carry on splashing around for many years to come.

Christine Pitcher, penguin curator at the Great Yarmouth centre, said he would benefit from an access ramp fitted at the pool which allows him to waddle rather than hop in to the water.

Because he is slower than the other penguins, he has to be fed fish by hand to stop the others stealing his food.

Ms Pitcher added: "It's the penguin equivalent of meals on wheels. We just have to make allowances for him being older and slower than the other penguins."

Dippy arrived with 11 other penguins to join the eight already living at the pool.

"They've all settled in very quickly," Ms Pitcher said. "Penguins are quite sociable and don't have any problem mixing with one another.

"The access ramp just makes it a little bit easier for him to get in and out of the water. Once he's in, he has loves it and has no problems at all."

On Friday Dippy faced a long queue to enter the water as other, more able birds, took advantage of the ramp. But he soon entered the water and could be seen splashing around and diving below the surface.

The pool was first adapted in 2009 for Lola, another arthritic penguin which has since died.

Lorraine Adams, director of the Seaview Wildlife Encounter, said the decision had been made to close after 44 years.

But she said Dippy had become one of the most popular residents since moving to the centre in 1997. He even has is own Facebook page.

She added: "Because he is a hand-reared imprinted penguin, he loves humans more than his other penguin pals. He has never taken the slightest bit of notice of any of the other single females in the colony and only ever had eyes for the keepers.

"He is 20 years of age and over the last couple of years we have had some X-rays taken and he has developed arthritis in both hips.

"He is on medication daily and this helps and does not affect his swimming or his appetite or his affection for the staff."