Unique experiment in Antwerp Zoo to help emperor penguins choose the right partner

Emperor penguins can now enjoy special UV light in the Antwerp Zoo. This light imitates the natural light from their original breeding grounds at the Antarctic much better, and will help them to find the right partner. The system is unique in Europe. 

Light is very important at Friesland, the area where the king penguins are staying in the Antwerp Zoo. The light system there imitates day and night times at the South Pole, but there's more. After taking soundings from scientists, Antwerp Zoo will be the first in Europe to adopt a new light technology: light emitting plasma (LEP) lamps. These lamps boast a very broad light spectre, also emitting ultraviolet (UV) light. 

When you will visit the penguin quarter in Antwerp, you will barely notice anything, but penguins see differently from humans, and this UV light will allow them to discover purple/pink spots on their beaks. The brighter this colour, the more mature and healthy they are, and the more ready for breeding. In other words, the new light will help the king penguins to pick the right partner. 

"Penguins look at different aspects to determine whether someone would be a good partner to have babies with. Are the feathers shining? Are the eyes bright? And what about the reflection of UV light on their beak? We hope that this new installation will stimulate the breeding process", explains Jan Dams of the Antwerp Zoo. Scientists will now monitor the situation and see whether things will improve. 

Penguins look at one another's feathers, eyes and spots on the beak to determine the choice of their partner

Simulation below shows the effect with and without UV light: