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  1. ITV Report

Penguin petting experience cancelled after animal rights backlash

Touchwood mall in Solihull has dropped a children’s Penguin Encounter event from its schedule after drawing criticism from animal rights campaigners.

Touchwood mall Credit: BPM Media

The event which promised to ’educate and delight children’ about endangered Humboldt penguins was set to take place on December 20th but bosses scrapped plans for the event to go ahead after hundreds of people complained.

An online petition calling for the event to be dropped went viral, attracting more than 600 signatures in 24 hours.

"As well as welfare concerns, using wild animals as a form on ‘entertainment’ sends out the wrong educational messages to the public, in particular children. Animals like penguins do not belong on a High Street in the UK and this event does nothing to teach children about conservation or respect for species and habitats.”

– Derby Animal RIghts

Others took to FaceBook to vent their disapproval.

One protester wrote: "Shame on you Touchwood. You are exploiting animals for your own gains."

Another posted: "Seriously? Have some respect for these animals - they are not toys to be shunted around for entertainment value."

Touchwood announced the cancellation on its FaceBook page earlier this week. It said it had listened to the concerns expressed.

“This educational encounter has been held at Touchwood for the past three years.

We are proud to have helped draw the public’s attention to the wonderful Humboldt Penguin species, which in its natural habitat is endangered. We had hoped to raise yet more awareness this year, but the purpose of the encounter has been misunderstood by animal rights lobbyists.

We sincerely apologise for any disappointment caused to the many children and families who were due to join us for what is always an informative day.”

– Touchwood Mall

Humboldt penguins generally live in coastal Peru and Chile in South America.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List of endangered species rates the species as “vulnerable” - one stage from being endangered.