By Amanda Stringfellow @amanda_l_s

A HAND-REARED penguin that was terrified of water has learned how to swim with the help of her keeper

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Videographer / Director: John Robertson
Producer: Amanda Stringfellow, Chloe Browne
Editor: Sonia Estal

Learning to swim: King Penguin Charlotte with Head Keeper Alistair Keen

The aqua-phobic bird, named Charlotte, refused to get into the penguin pool with the rest of her colony and made desperate attempts to avoid the water.

But after having one-on-one swimming lessons to conquer her fear, Charlotte now loves her time in the pool.

Head keeper, Alastair Keen, donned a wetsuit and goggles to tempt the water-shy bird into the penguin pool at Birdland Park and Gardens in Gloucestershire.

Ready for my close-up: Charlotte poses for the camera

And after a few days training Charlotte is now diving happily into the pool and darting through the water with her dive-companion.

The first King penguin to be born in the UK in seven-years – Charlotte’s egg was artificially incubated after several previous eggs had been broken by other penguins.

She was then hand-reared by Alastair with round-the-clock care and grew up believing the 35-year-old keeper was her mother and father.

Charlotte on the left with mother and father and Head Keeper Alistair Keen

But after being introduced to the other penguins at the park, it became clear Charlotte was reluctant to join them in the pool.

Alastair said: “Charlotte hadn’t had contact with water for nine-months as chick feathers aren’t waterproof.

“She’d never experienced it, it was a complete shock to her.”

Alistair guides the adorable penguin through the water
Best Friends: Without Alistair's help Charlotte might never have found her water wings

In the wild penguins naturally follow their parents into the water, but being hand-reared Charlotte didn’t have the benefit of a large family group to help her.

Simon Blackwell, Manager at Birdland, Gloucestershire, said: “We realised Charlotte was scared of water when we released her to be with the other penguins.

“When she came to the edge of pool to put her feet in the water she ran away.

“We pushed her into the pool and she panicked so much we realised we needed to approach it in a different way.

“Because she followed Alastair in the enclosure quite regularly it was obvious that he was going to have to don a wetsuit and get into the smelly, fishy water.”

Helping Hand: Charlotte gains confidence with the help of mentor Alistair

Committed keeper Alastair rose to the challenge and waded into the penguin pool to encourage Charlotte to take the plunge.

"Charlotte is quite clingy, she runs straight to me when I walk into the enclosure, she thinks I’m mum and dad, “ he said.

 “She’d follow the adults up to the side of the pool but then turn around and come back away from it.

 “If we tried to push her in she would run away and flap her wings around.

Inspirational: The cute penguin clearly takes her training seriously

“We decided I’d go in the pool with her, it’s not something we’ve ever tried before.

“The first day she just sat and watched me in the pool so we decided to lift her in.

“Once she got her head underwater and released she could hold her breath, she could see underwater, something just twigged and she was brilliant.”

Swim While Your Winning: Charlotte glides through the water

Alastair shared pictures of their exploits on his Facebook page and the cute penguin has become a poster girl for the park.

Birdland is the only place in England to breed King penguins and Charlotte is the first chick they have successfully reared in seven-years and the first female chick in nine-years.

King penguins are the second largest species of penguin, growing as tall as three feet and weighing up to 2.5 stones.

Keeper Alastair shares a moment with his star pupil

Simon, 62, said: “She’s part of the only breeding group of King penguins in the UK.

“She’s female so we can continue our breeding regime, continuing the viability of the group.

“Charlotte is now quite famous – we think she’s going to attract a lot of people and a lot of attention.”

Making a splash: Charlotte dives into penguin pool at Birdland Park & Gardens

Charlotte is now as happy in the penguin pool as she is on dry land - but has one trick left to learn.

Alastair said: “She’s become a brilliant swimmer now.

"You see her exhibiting natural behaviours like cleaning herself on the water

“Now she just needs to learn to feed in the water - we’re yet to see her catch a fish.”

Pleased punters: A youngster enjoys watching Charlotte swim with the other penguins