Recent activity

Penguin Play behaviour

Samantha Chiew, August 26, 2015

I am seeking insight from anyone who has observed penguin play behaviour and can provide some description of what it looks like.

I am a PhD student from the University of Melbourne, looking at zoo visitor-animal interactions where I aim to understand the effects on both the animal as well as the visitor. My interests in particularly is to try and understand the mechanisms of their interactions and identify what it is about visitors that results in the behavioural and physiological response in zoo animals so that strategies can be implemented to improve zoo animal welfare.

At the moment, I am proposing a study around little penguins, to build on the work of one of my co-supervisors from Zoos Victoria. Her penguin study found there are effects of visitors on little penguins, with the results suggesting an increased avoidance and aggressive behaviour when visitors are present. Thus what I would like to do is understand the mechanisms of that interaction.

However an issue I currently need some insight in, is defining or understanding play behaviour in penguins. I have not found any studies on play behaviour in penguins thus would appreciate anyone who has observed penguin play behaviour to describe it to me and which species of penguins.


Kind regards,


Comments ( 4 )

Luke Einoder

Luke Einoder

Hi Samantha, I don't know what you mean by play behaviour? I have a number of years experience researching wild little penguins and Adelie penguins. I know of a well designed study on behaviour responses to zoo visitors by captive Cheetahs which may be a useful guide for your methods and robust analysis options. See link:

Larissa Cunha

Larissa Cunha

Hello Samantha, I don't know if it can help but I have a very short vídeo(2:40 min.) showing some penguins playing in a little iceberg. If you want I can send it to you.

David Schutt

Hi Samantha. I've spent two seasons with gentoos and have dozens of hours of video footage showing different behaviours. I don't recall ever observing any "play" behaviour, but I can look through my footage logs and see what might come up. I have quite a few clips already posted on YouTube as well that may be able to help you. I can email the information to you if you'd like.

Samantha Chiew

Thanks for your comments. Apologies for my slow response, was having some technical difficulties adding a comment here.

In reference to your question Luke, I am wanting to identify positive behaviours that penguins may engage in to demonstrate to me that visitors could have a positive influence on penguin behaviour and welfare. What I mean by "positive behaviours" are behaviours that may suggest animals are not stressed or threatened, in other words promotes a positive welfare state in the animal.

This led me to consider "play" as a potential indicator of animals being in a positive welfare state. A handful of studies on visitor effects on primates have used play as one of their behaviours they record to determine if visitors have a negative effect on the animals e.g. reduced play behaviour suggests negative impact. However, play was never defined in these studies and I am aware play behaviour in mammals would be different in birds.

Thus leaving me to ask the question do penguins play? And if so, how does it look like? I hope that answers your question Luke.

Larissa, I would greatly appreciate seeing that short video on penguins playing. Please send it to my email:

David, i would also greatly appreciate seeing those clips you have posted on YouTube. Please send the information to my above email when you can.