Actual penguins, not faux penguins.

  • Telford Exotic Zoo in the United Kingdom had been expecting a delivery of six Humboldt penguins in July.
  • However, a worldwide shortage of the flightless birds thanks to an outbreak of avian malaria has forced the zoo to fill its empty enclosure with plastic versions of the real thing.
  • The zoo, which first opened in July 2017, doesn't expect to acquire living penguins until sometime next year.


There are few things more adorable than a penguin's waddle - but if you're heading to the United Kingdom's Telford Exotic Zoo in hopes of getting a glimpse at these flightless birds in action, you may want to delay your trip.

That's because the zoo is currently using penguin figurines in response to a outbreak of avian malaria, The Daily Mirror reported Tuesday.

The zoo had been expecting a delivery of six Humboldt penguins in July, Telford owner Scott Adams told the BBC, but the worldwide shortage has instead forced it to fill its empty enclosure with plastic versions of the real thing.

"The enclosure is the zoo's most expensive to date and we had hoped to have it open for the start of the summer holidays," said Adams. "But then disaster struck."

Avian malaria, a bird-specific type of malaria that has a mortality rate of around 60 percent. The malaria has ripped through the penguin population in the UK the past two years.

The zoo chose to use the life-size replicas to help educate visitors while it waits for live penguins to arrive. And a member of the staff will dress up in a penguin costume over the holiday season "so at least the children will have something to enjoy,"Adams said.

Visitors called the plastic models "weird" and "disappointing," The Daily Mirror reported.

"It's a shame they've spent all this money and got nothing to show for it," local resident Paul Lawley told the newspaper. "It's really sad news about the penguins dying, too. But I would have just left it empty if I was them. It looks like the Madame Tussauds version of a zoo."

The zoo, which first opened in July 2017, doesn't expect to acquire living penguins until sometime next year.

"Penguins only mate once a year, so we've got to sit back and let nature take its course until the numbers build up in the UK and Europe," Adams said.

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