University of Gloucestershire Research to Help King Penguins

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Staff and students from the University of Gloucestershire are hoping to help secure the future of King penguins in captivity.

Led by Dr Bethan Stallwood, Senior Lecturer in Biosciences, and with they have been carrying out research on the penguins at Birdland Park and Gardens in Bourton-on-the-Water, home to the only colony in England. The work has been inspired by Dr Stallwood’s project with fellow Senior Lecturer and Course Leader for Biological Sciences, Dr Anne Goodenough.

Dr Stallwood and Biology undergraduate students Holly Tipper, Tom Nicholson and Shantelle Dandy have been taking feather swabs from the birds. They are then taken to University laboratories to find out which bacteria and fungi microbes are growing on the different penguins and on the different feathers.

“It is hoped that this research, and future research, will help improve the breeding success of King penguins in captivity,” said Dr Stallwood. “Birdland has been successful in breeding the birds, but as there are so few in captivity, it is vital that their breeding success is improved.”

First established in 1957, Birdland is home to more than 500 birds including two species of penguin, the King and the Humboldt. The only other King colony in the British Isles is in Edinburgh. King penguins (Aptenodytes patagonicus) are the second largest penguin, smaller than the Emperor penguin, and breed in the sub-Antarctic.

Simon Blackwell, Director at Birdland, said: “We are only too pleased to support any serious studies relating to penguins in the wild and captivity, especially when we have the only King Penguins in the UK.”

Dr Stallwood is also working with Deakin University in Australia to find out whether the microbes in the nest boxes used by the Little penguin are affecting their breeding success and chick survival. The research is also to be extended to the African penguin in South Africa.

She added: “All of this research was inspired by the very successful research (published) project that I did with Dr Anne Goodenough on the microbes in pied flycatcher nest boxes. This research is also continuing, on a larger scale over the summer.”

Source: University of Gloucestershire

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