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O Se shares stage with penguins on parade

TELEVISION presenter Daithi O Se told yesterday how he has a lot in common with a colony of penguins -- as both had been thrown in at the deep end and survived.

The Kerryman was back in his home county yesterday to open the new polar penguin display at Oceanworld Aquarium in Dingle.

And it was while he watched the gentoo penguins, the newest additions at the attraction, that O Se commented they made him reflect on his own career in television.

"When I joined the 'Daily Show' I was thrown in at the deep end too and survived," he quipped. The 12 new residents have really made themselves at home -- and since they arrived at the aquarium in April the visitor numbers have risen by 25pc.

Their specially constructed enclosure has cooled air and a constant supply of glistening ice to mimic their natural environment of the Falkland Islands.

Pip, Penelope, Missy, Kerry, Paddy, Fletcher, Sneachta, Tom Crean, Bubbles and Peig have won their way into the hearts of the public and locals alike.

But most of the attention has been on lovebirds, Hugh and Candy.

Hugh, aged 22, has paired off with seven-year-old Candy and penguin keeper Rebecca Thornton is keeping her fingers crossed the romance will continue to blossom.

When they mate, gentoo penguins tend to be fairly monogamous and will stick to the one partner for the season.

"Hugh and Candy arrived over from France together and have paired up but they haven't got as far as breeding yet but we're hoping they will," she told the Irish Independent.

"The penguins are really getting on well in the aquarium and I'm very happy with how they're all settling in."

Even before the arrival of the gentoo penguins -- one of the world's fastest animals -- the Dingle attraction could boast 100,000 visitors each year, making it one of the country's top 12 tourist attractions. Now with numbers already up on last year, it's hoped it will be a bumper season for the town with spin-off benefits for the region.

Regional manager of Udaras na Gaeltachta. Eamonn O Neachtain, which awarded a €750,000 grant to the polar exhibition, said even areas like the Dingle Peninsula had to look beyond its own resources.

"We have to reinvent the product on a continual basis and this is a product we're very proud of and the spin off locally is very significant," Mr O Neachtain said.

The new extension also houses an exhibition on explorers Shackelton, Scott, Keohane and Tom Crean, who was born and died within 16km of the aquarium at Annascaul.

Irish Independent