SeaWorld Orlando

SeaWorld penguin sporting tiny, custom wetsuit after unexpected feather loss

This Adelie penguin had to improvise with a customized wetsuit after losing her feathers.

This Adelie penguin had to improvise with a customized wetsuit after losing her feathers.  (SeaWorld)

We’ve heard of a penguin tuxedo but have you ever seen a penguin wearing a wetsuit?

Guests visiting Antarctica: Empire of the Penguin at SeaWorld Orlando can now see a tiny penguin that is a little bit more dressed up than her feathered friends. 

That’s because this Adelie penguin is wearing her very own wetsuit.

SeaWorld says the female penguin recently experienced feather loss (which also happens to birds in the wild) and "had a hard time naturally regulating her body temperature." The help the young penguin keep warm, the park's aviculture team got to work building a wetsuit to mimic her former coat of feathers. The coat was designed and sewn by SeaWorld’s wardrobe department and custom fit just for the bird.

RELATED: Big changes coming to SeaWorld in 2017

While wearing her wetsuit the penguin swims, sleeps and eats with her fellow birds.

Dyan deNapoli, a senior penguin aquarist at the New England Aquarium who has raised and cared for hundreds of birds over the years, says penguins, like all birds undergo feather loss at some point in their lives during the molting cycle.

"Penguins undergo what is called a catastrophic molt. Unlike most birds – which molt a few feathers at a time – penguins molt all of their feathers at once over a 2-3 week period," deNapoli told

"During the molt, they cannot go into the water (they would freeze), so they must eat a tremendous amount of food during the month before the molt to store up enough fat to survive their enforced fast."

SeaWorld says that this particular penguin went through the molt but the feathers did not grow back. However, the feather loss may not be permanent. A spokeswoman said that at this time, there is only one wetsuit-wearing penguin in its care. 

The news comes as conservation efforts at the park continue to be ramped up.

In Sept., California governor Jerry Brown announced that he had approved legislation requiring SeaWorld to follow through on its plan to end killer whale breeding and entertainment shows.

A provision of SB839 made it a crime for an individual or corporation to breed orcas in captivity, punishable by a fine of up to $100,000.

Meanwhile, in March, SeaWorld said it would abandon its breeding programs and choreographed animal performances to instead focus on educational endeavors and a more natural whale viewing experience.

The park’s San Diego location plans to unveil the first new orca display in 2017. They will expand it to the Orlando and San Antonio locations by 2019.