No, If you live in the US, Europe, or many other places. You can’t have penguins as pets as they are a protected species and need licenses to be kept.
Table of Contents
When Can You Have A Penguin As A Pet?
Never. Penguins are super cute – and as with most small animals that we see in zoos and on TV – we assume we can have as pets. There are many reasons why we can’t have wild animals as pets – and when this is enshrined in the laws of your country (or in the case of the penguin – the whole world) – you just can’t have them!
Penguins are protected by international law from wild capture or direct human interference. Just touching a penguin on purpose in their natural habitat could wind you up in real trouble. Taking eggs from the wild is totally out of the question.
Zoos, wildlife parks, and other conservation bodies can get permission to own, work with, touch and monitor penguins both in their natural habitat or in special enclosures. However, they should be operating under strict licensing regulations and guidelines for care. It is most likely that they are working with and towards the conservation and understanding of the species and their habitats. They are not kept as pets.
Their enclosures would need to meet certain minimum requirements – and although penguins live in colder climates – they don’t need to be kept cold when in artificial environments. They are very social too and need to be kept in large groups to be in good health. Something most pet homes couldn’t do.
Where Can You Buy A Penguin?
If you are looking to buy a penguin instead of a dog for a pet – you are out of luck. Penguins will not be available for individual buyers anywhere in the civilized world. It would be unethical to have a single penguin in your home as a pet – not to mention of course; illegal.
If you could manage to find a group of penguins for sale through a wildlife forum of some kind – you would no doubt need to complete a huge amount of paperwork. No doubt, you would also need to be certified by numerous conservation bodies before you could even collect them.
Would they even be classed as pets if they were in a huge outdoor enclosure – living somewhat naturalistically anyway? It is possible that someone determined – and also a penguin advocate – could eventually keep penguins under such controlled circumstances – but they would not be kept as pets in the true sense.
No basket by the fire or designer jackets for your Gentoo or Rockhopper penguins. And let’s be honest – they can’t be toilet trained – and they smell terrible too!
Can You Train A Penguin?
Absolutely you can train a penguin. They are very responsive to positive reinforcement training – and will perform simple actions on command. Usually only in response to food…
Zookeepers around the world have been working with their penguins to be responsive to commands. It is essential that they are not fearful of humans and can be handled (or maneuvered safely) where appropriate. It is not ethical to keep an animal in a situation where it is in close contact with humans if it is not trained to accept that interaction.
Training penguins isn’t about getting them to spin in a circle or offer their fin on command – it is about an equal understanding of a penguin’s thoughts and needs. Training is a whole wider concept than most people think.
It isn’t about you ‘telling’ an animal what to do – it is about the trainer working to find out what is acceptable to the animal and reinforcing that. Simple things like having them stand on a spot (actually a hidden weighing scale) or to touch the end of a stick (to check eyesight) and overall health checks are what the training is aimed at.
And if you have ever been to a zoo and watched penguin feeding time – you can see how that training has paid off!
How Long Do Penguins Live?
If you had some penguins kept in captivity – they could live anywhere between 6 years (Little Penguins) to 30 years (Magellanic Penguins). Penguins live much longer overall in captivity than in the wild as they are fed a proper diet, have access to free health care, and have no natural predators in a zoo!
Also, the average lifespan is so different from the maximum lifespan – as many penguin chicks are lost to predators and other issues. For example, in Emperor penguins, it is estimated that up to 90% of chicks die in their first year of life. This just won’t happen in captivity, so more penguins live for longer when under the watchful eye of humans.
And, as penguins can only be kept by humans with the specific goal of conservation – it would be pretty irresponsible if they didn’t live long healthy lives while in our care, wouldn’t it?