Telford Exotic Zoo in Shropshire had just completed a new enclosure for their penguins. However, they ended up having to fill the enclosure with model penguins, due to a shortage of the real thing. Visitors were disappointed to see a series of plastic models of the penguins, which had been purchased from a model shop in Devon.

Reportedly, the new specialist penguin enclosure cost the zoo thousands of pounds and was set to open for the summer holidays.

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Penguin shortage leads to plastic birds

The exotic zoo was expecting the arrival of six Humboldt penguins in July but was unable to accept the birds due to an avian malaria outbreak.

According to Scott Adams the director of the zoo, they decided to use plastic models until they are able to get real penguins to display to visitors. Scott, 35, who regularly appears on “The Alan Titchmarsh Show” and “Blue Peter,” said the timing was just really bad.

As noted by the Shropshire Star, Adams said the new enclosure is their most expensive ever and they were planning to open it for the beginning of the summer holidays when “disaster struck.” Due to an outbreak of penguin malaria, he said they were unable to take the three pairs of penguins. This was when they made up their minds to get plastic, life-sized models instead.

Adams did say they got models of a variety of species [VIDEO] in order to educate visitors to the zoo, at least to an extent. He said they do have signs around the enclosure explaining the situation, adding that it has been really disappointing for the zoo and out of their control.

It turns out there has been a case of penguin malaria during the last couple of years that has swept through the UK. He said many, if not most, zoos have lost penguins due to the disease. Scott did add that many of the larger zoos are getting penguins into stock and they hope that any spare penguins might come their way. However, he added that because their zoo is relatively small, they come up low on the list when it comes to replenishing their numbers.

Penguins mate once a year

Adams said because penguins are known to only mate once a year, they have to sit back and allow nature to take its course until numbers of the birds available in the UK and Europe increase.

As reported by the Telegraph, Adams doesn’t expect anything to happen until the New Year, which is disappointing as the new penguin enclosure cost them tens of thousands of pounds. As he doesn’t expect the situation to be resolved until next year, he is planning for a member of the zoo’s staff to dress up in a penguin suit over the festive period. He added that at least this will be fun for the kids visiting the zoo.

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Enclosure too specialised for other animals

Adams explained that the new penguin enclosure cannot be adapted for other animals, as it features rockwork, cliffs and special water features. The enclosure took around two months to complete. This is what forced them to buy the plastic birds from a Devon model shop. Scott added that if they had looked for penguins some years ago, they would already have them by now, saying it was one of those “unfortunate things.”

Naturally social media had something to say about the plastic penguins, with ingenious memes and cartoons cropping up.

Reportedly penguins in the wild have never built up an immunity to the avian malaria, as they usually live near the sea [VIDEO] where there are none of the mosquitoes that carry the disease.