Ralph the penguin: Britain’s best loved penguin dies aged 19 | Nature | News

Sensitive Ralph, a rare Humboldt penguin, moulted his insulating plumage too quickly, leaving him with sensitive bald patches.

Staff at Marwell Zoo initially made him a weatherproof coat cut from the leg of a wetsuit but when surfing giants O’Neill heard about his plight they created a custom wetsuit, normally the reserve of the sport’s superstars.

Sadly, Ralph, who was hatched on New Year’s Day 1999 and moved to the Winchester wildlife park from Germany’s Nuremberg Zoo in 2006, was diagnosed with arthritis last year.

The incurable and degenerative age-related disease was well managed with drugs but, say Marwell, after “taking all factors into consideration and to prevent distress or pain”, Ralph has been put to sleep.

James Ellis, birds team leader at Marwell Wildlife, said today: “It is very sad that we have had to say goodbye to Ralph, the oldest penguin in our colony.

“Ralph was simply unique and never far from the spotlight with his mischievous antics, which will be sorely missed by everyone who knew and looked after him.

“Ralph had a long and happy life and everyone has wonderful memories of him.”

Over the years, Ralph and partner Coral raised several chicks, including Calippo, who remains in the colony of Humboldt penguins, which are classified as Vulnerable on the Red List of Threatened Species.

O’Neill Wetsuits have paid tribute to the penguin, with the company’s European marketing manager Jan Michaelis lamenting: “All of the team at O’Neill Wetsuits HQ are saddened to hear of Ralph’s passing. 

“We first helped Ralph by providing him with a custom made wetsuit in 2013. He has been considered a much loved and unique member of our team ever since.

“Wishing him an endless supply of fish, waves and peace up in penguin heaven.”

Marwell Zoo is home to more than 140 species. It is owned by Marwell Wildlife, a global conservation charity leading programmes in the UK, Africa and across the world.

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