This is a classic story of an epic rivalry that turned ugly. The images may be in color, but the characters are all black and white. For more than 100 years, the colony of waddling, lovable penguins have put the Edinburgh Zoo on the map. Zoo officials say it was the first zoo in the world to exhibit the birds. Today, there are almost 200 penguins that frolic and dart about, delighting visitors. Lesley Garland, who has been a Edinburgh Zoo’s penguin keeper for the past 11 years, said the penguins have always been popular here because the zoo has such a large colony. “Each has their own personality,” she said. “They’re sometimes hyper-active toddlers and that’s really how we can tell them apart. It’s all in their personalities.” Well, the penguins were the top attraction, until the pandas moved in. After years of negotiating with China, the Edinburgh Zoo was given two pandas on long-term loan. They arrived last fall. The female panda is named Tian Tian, which means “sweetie,” and the male is named Yang Guang, meaning “sunlight.” Not surprisingly, the pandas were an instant hit with visitors. Good news for the zoo, but not for the penguins, who for the first-time ever lost their coveted status as favorite attraction. Are the penguins jealous and exacting revenge? So it would seem. Forgive us, but it’s a dirty story involving projectiles of penguin poop aimed directly at an unsuspecting public. One pair of penguins routinely nests by fence with a commanding view of the walkways below.
Which wasn’t a problem until the main entrance to the panda exhibit was placed directly below. “These people are all waiting to see the pandas and because they are queuing up here, whenever these guys decide to go to the bathroom, it’s been coming over the fence and hitting people on the head,” Garland said. “It could be the revenge of the penguins,” she added, with a mischievous laugh. Zoo officials have a theory, she added, that the penguins could be jealous of all the attention the pandas are getting. So they installed a narrow band of Plexiglas on the edge of the penguins’ perch to protect the visitors below. “I just keep my fingers crossed that that works,” Garland said. “Hopefully none of the larger King penguins will come along and try and maybe fire it over the top.” But the forsaken penguins can take comfort in knowing that in 10 years those cute, cuddly pandas have to go back to China. Perhaps then the penguins will rule the roost at the Edinburgh Zoo once again.