A celebrity penguin from the Cotswolds has been crowned the world’s most popular flightless bird after winning the final of a global competition.
Spike, a king penguin at Birdland who has over 15,000 Facebook followers, was up against an African penguin called Mai from the Hyatt Regency Maui Resort & Spa in Hawaii.
Worldwide reaction to the final was such that organisers, Penguins International, had to extend voting due to their website crashing.
In the end the result was incredibly close, with Spike just edging victory by a margin of 50.5% to Mai’s 49.5%.
On his way to the final 15-year-old Spike had already beaten off competitors from as far afield as Australia, America and Canada in the Penguins International ‘March of The Penguins Madness’ challenge.
Spike’s victory is especially sweet for his keeper Alistair Keen who has raised him from an egg after he was rejected by his parents.
“It’s been absolutely overwhelming to witness the support for Spike from around the world,” said Alistair.
“He’s obviously a particular favourite with me, but for him to have made quite such a global impact is really incredible.
“Spike is a real personality and we all have a fantastic bond with him, having been hand-reared by us in 2007 after being abandoned.
“As well as being great news for Spike, the worldwide awareness created by the competition is also incredibly important for penguin conservation.
“It’s also wonderful that we’re going to have two kings crowned here within the space of just a few week,” he added.
Over the years Spike has become one of the country’s best known penguins with a starring role alongside the legendary Sir David Attenborough as part of the ‘Natural Curiosities’ series.
Among his other television highlights was a live appearance on BBC Breakfast earlier this week, ‘Penguins Make You Laugh Out Loud’ and ‘Junior Vets’. He’s also featured on ‘Escape to the Country’ and starred in adverts for LG and an Icelandic bank.
In addition to his television work, Spike has appeared in numerous calendars, on greetings cards and he even has a double page spread in a natural history book.
Birdland is home to England’s only colony of king penguins and they share their fishing village-themed enclosure with a group of Humboldt penguins.
With its combination of woodland, riverside and gardens, Birdland features more than 500 birds, ranging from birds of prey and parrots to cassowaries and cranes in a mix of free-flying and aviary displays.
Penguins International is a non-profit organisation committed to preserving and protecting penguins throughout the world.