Saturday 24 March 2018

Bros before floes for Humboldt penguin Dippy

Dippy the Humboldt penguin with aquarist Dave Warriner (Great Yarmouth Sea Life Centre/PA)
Dippy the Humboldt penguin with aquarist Dave Warriner (Great Yarmouth Sea Life Centre/PA)

An arthritic penguin called Dippy has forged a bromance with his 57-year-old keeper.

Dippy the Humboldt penguin moved to Great Yarmouth Sea Life Centre a year ago when his long-term home on the Isle of Wight was forced to close.

At 21 years old he is the senior bird in the flock, and most of his feathered friends have already paired up.

But Dippy proved to be more of a people-penguin, and he has grown particularly fond of aquarist Dave Warriner, who readily admits that tending to Dippy and his penguin entourage is his favourite daily duty.

While Dippy seems happy when any of his human guardians enter his enclosure, it is only Dave who gets an enthusiastic braying call and then a swift waddle approach to receive a friendly tickle.

"I must confess I've developed a bit of a soft spot for him," said Mr Warriner, of Caister-on-Sea. "It's the way he lifts his little wings so I can tickle him underneath."

The keeper has to rake the sand in the enclosure and give things a general sprucing up, including brushing down the sloping rock that is Dippy's very own disabled access ramp into the penguin colony's pool.

Before joining the Sea Life staff 20 years ago, Mr Warriner worked backstage at the end of pier theatre on Britannia Pier in Great Yarmouth, a job which enabled him to hobnob with celebrities ranging from Russ Abbot to the Krankies.

Ask him who his favourite "star" is, however, and there is no longer any contest - Dippy wins, flippers down.

Dippy is one of 15 Humboldt penguins at the centre, all captive-bred.

As well as entertaining visitors with their antics they help raise awareness of penguin conservation needs.

Humboldts have been reduced to an estimated 10,000 pairs in their native Peru and Argentina, mainly because of overfishing of their favourite food source.

Press Association

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