Can I keep a penguin as a pet?
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Can I keep a penguin as a pet?

Over the years we have often been asked about the possibility of keeping penguins as pets. We are no experts, but we have talked to several. They all are completely against the idea.

First off, all species of penguin are protected so that you could only (legally) get a penguin from a Zoo that had bred it.

Secondly, you would need a constant and reliable supply of fresh frozen fish as well as appropriate vitamin supplements, you would also need to know a vet who was familiar with penguins and the many diseases they are prone to when kept in captivity.

Thirdly, you would need to be able to feed the birds every day so you couldn't take any more vacations! You can't just put a penguin into kennels!

Fourthly, you would need to build a suitable enclosure to keep the bird - remember different species have very different environmental requirements (temperature, vegetation etc.). For example, there are no species of penguin that could live outside year round in say Chicago with its wide temperature variations. Plus all species of penguins require access to a large, deep and clean pool of water - preferably salt water.

Fifthly, penguins tend to live in large colonies - anything less than say 20 birds would not be sufficient. So you would need a very healthy income. Zoo's here reckon it costs around 400 pounds (700 US$) per year just to keep a penguin in fish!

Finally, why would you want to keep penguins for yourself anyway? They are much better left in the wild or in well looked after breeding colonies in Zoos and Aquaria. Remember that nearly all species are endangered to some extent or another.

We would strongly discourage anyone from trying to keep a penguin as a pet - except the cuddly toy variety!