Antwerp Zoo encourages mating of penguins with a special light effect

Antwerp Zoo encourages mating of penguins with a special light effect
Antwerp ZOO

By installing special lamps in Antwerp Zoo that show the sexual maturity of the king penguins, the zoo hopes to stimulate the breeding process.

Penguins see differently from humans. By installing special lamps, the king penguins in Antwerp Zoo will now see pink and purple spots on the beaks of their peers as soon as they have reached sexual maturity, just like they would in nature. The effect should better match pairs and stimulate the breeding success of the endangered species. The experiment is unique in Europe.

The light emitting plasma lamps (lep-lamps) contain UV-light, which brings out the pink and purple spot naturally, previous research has indicated. “As the first zoo in Europe to do this, we are setting a trend,” said Jan Dams, coordinator of animal care at the zoo.


The human eye cannot see UV-light, but penguins – and most other bird species- can, which makes them see colours differently than people. “This means our visitors will not be able to see the colours on their beaks. In the first place, we try to provide excellent accommodation for our animals and optimize their welfare. That is why we have been simulating their natural habitat, like the Falkland Island and the subarctic regions where penguins live, as realistically as possible. Throughout the year we simulate the different lengths of the days which has an influence on their breeding cycle.”

Antwerp Zoo is the first scientific zoo in the world, with its own scientific zoological centre. The scientists are studying the long-term concrete impact of the light on the breeding process.

25 April is the International Day of the Penguin, because it is the day when penguins start migrating North.

Maïthé Chini
The Brussels Times

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