Featherless Ralph the penguin back in the swim of things after getting a new wetsuit

By Daily Mail Reporter
Last updated at 8:34 AM on 14th August 2009

Ralph the bald penguin is waddling with an extra spring in his step - after being fitted with a customised wetsuit.

Unlike the rest of the colony of Humboldt penguins, which lose their old feathers gradually to make way for a fresh set, nine-year-old Ralph's always fall out in just one day.
This leaves him at severe risk of sunburn and he faced being kept indoors for three weeks until his new set have grown.

Suits you, Ralph: The Humboldt penguin loses his feathers in one day - unlike the rest of his breed who shed their plumage gradually

Going swimmingly: Ralph's condition left him at risk of sunburn which is why he needed to be fitted with a special jacket
But yesterday he was feeding happily with his chums after wildlife park keepers fashioned him the rubber outfit from the leg of a man's wetsuit.

'Ralph's really taken to his new suit,' said Helen Jeffreys of Marwell Wildlife, near Winchester, Hampshire.
'It's not inhibiting him in any way. He's just getting on with his daily business.

'All the other penguins were intrigued by his new clothes and they spent a good while checking him out.

'But when they realised it was still Ralph under the suit they seemed quite happy and don't really pay it any attention any more.'

Fitting in: The others no longer take any notice of Ralph's wetsuit

David White, assistant manager of Penguin World at Marwell, said: 'Ralph is perfectly healthy so we don't know why his feathers all drop out at once.'

He said he and his colleagues had thought about covering the 2ft bird in suncream but decided it would wash off in the water.
Then they hit on the wetsuit idea.

'Ralph must be the first scuba penguin but he seems so at ease that we've been thinking maybe we should get him a mask and snorkel as well.'

Super swimmer: Ralph shows off his front crawl in the pool at Marwell Wildlife, in Hampshire

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