A penguin with patchy feathers has been given a new customised wetsuit to keep him warm and dry.

Ralph, who suffers from a condition which prevents his feathers from growing back properly after a moult, wearing his new wetsuit.
Ralph, who suffers from a condition which prevents his feathers from growing back properly after a moult, wearing his new wetsuit.

Marwell Zoo resident Ralph the Humboldt penguin is sporting his new look thanks to Californian wetsuit brand O’Neill.

Customised wetsuit

The 18-year-old penguin needs a customised wetsuit because when he moults his feathers don’t grow through, leaving him with bald patches.

Birds team leader Meg Fieldhouse said: “Every year the penguins lose their feathers and grow new ones.

“It normally takes 2 to 3 weeks for the whole process to happen. Ralph’s condition means when he loses his feathers the new ones don’t grow through, leaving him with bald patches.

“His wetsuit keeps him nice and warm during colder weather and in the summer it protects him from the sun too.”

New look

O’Neill Wetsuits have been supplying Ralf with specially made suits since 2013 and updated his look when the previous wetsuit became tatty.

European marketing manager at O’Neill Wetsuits Jan Michaelis said the company was very honoured to have Ralph on “Team O’Neill”.

She said: “We are very happy we can help this very special little team member to spend time outdoors and in the water with his friends.”

Aside from wearing a custom-made wetsuit, Ralph swims, eats and plays just like the other penguins.

His partner, Coral, can often be seen grooming and preening Ralph’s wetsuit just as she would if he had feathers.

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