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Bristol penguins donated to zoo in Georgia devastated by flooding

This sassy penguin is checking out its new accommodation. Photo: Bristol Zoo Gardens

A group of penguins from Bristol Zoo has been donated to Bristol’s twinned city of Tbilisi in Georgia, which lost many of its zoo animals in a flash flood in 2015.

19 young South African penguins are now settling into a newly refurbished penguin pool at Tbilisi Zoo after making the journey by charter plane.

Credit: Bristol Zoo Gardens

They are the latest of around 80 animals to have been re-homed at the zoo from various European zoos.

Tbilisi Zoo suffered significant animal losses in the flood of June 2015, which killed 19 people and left hundreds homeless.

281
of the zoo's 1155 animals died in the disaster.

Bristol Zoo’s South African penguins will now form a new breeding group at Tbilisi, to boost captive numbers for the species which has been categorised as ‘Endangered’ by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

Credit: Bristol Zoo Gardens

Derek Pickup, chair of Tbilisi twinning association, said: “Since the disastrous flood at Tbilisi Zoo we have been working with Bristol Zoo to find ways in which we could help them by providing advice on developing a new Zoo in Tbilisi and by providing some new animals. It is fantastic that Bristol Zoo is donating these wonderful Penguins and encouraging other zoo's to follow our example and to donate animals. We feel like a modern day Noah and his ark”.

Animals regularly move to new zoos when they are old enough to join new breeding groups, and we are very happy to be able to support Tbilisi Zoo by donating a group of penguins to establish a new breeding group in Georgia as part of the European breeding programme.

– Christoph Schwitzer, Bristol Zoo’s director of conservation

After almost two years of intensive repair and restoration works, Tbilisi Zoo is now thriving and is home to new animals donated from zoos around the world.

Credit: Bristol Zoo Gardens

The population of African penguins has fallen a devastating 98 per cent in the last century, with less than 18,000 breeding pairs left in the wild in South Africa.

South African penguins typically grow around two feet tall and are also known as jackass penguins for their braying, donkey-like call.