The Truth About Keeping Penguins as Pets: What You Need to Know

can penguins be pets

There is no doubt that penguins are fascinating creatures with their adorable waddles and comical antics. It’s no wonder that some people may wonder if they can have a penguin as a pet. However, the answer to this question is not a simple yes or no. Let’s delve into the details and complexities of keeping a penguin as a pet.

What Types of Penguins Can Be Kept as Pets?

While some penguin species may seem like ideal pets due to their small size and cute appearance, the reality is that no species of penguin is suitable for domestication. However, some species have been successfully kept in captivity, usually in zoos or wildlife centers. These include:

  1. African Penguins
  2. Galapagos Penguins
  3. Humboldt Penguins
  4. Magellanic Penguins
  5. Rockhopper Penguins
  6. Yellow-eyed Penguins
  7. Little Blue Penguins

What Are the Legalities and Regulations of Owning a Penguin?

Aside from the fact that penguins are not domestic animals, there are also strict laws and regulations that prohibit individuals from owning them as pets. These include:

  1. CITES Regulations: All penguin species are listed under Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). This means that it is illegal to trade, sell, or own penguins without proper permits.
  2. Marine Mammal Protection Act: In the United States, all marine mammals, including penguins, are protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act. This makes it illegal to capture, buy, or sell them without a permit.
  3. Animal Welfare Act: Owning a penguin also requires compliance with the standards set by the Animal Welfare Act, which includes providing appropriate care and housing for the animal.

What Are the Pros and Cons of Keeping a Penguin as a Pet?

While owning a penguin may seem like a dream for some, it’s important to consider the pros and cons before making any decisions.


  • Unique and Interesting Pet: Penguins are undeniably fascinating creatures and having one as a pet would certainly make for a unique experience.
  • Low Maintenance: Penguins require minimal grooming and are relatively low maintenance compared to other pets.
  • Bonding with Your Penguin: With proper training and socialization, penguins can form strong bonds with their owners.


  • Expensive and Difficult to Obtain: The cost and legal restrictions involved in obtaining a penguin can be significant barriers for most people.
  • Specialized Care and Environment Needed: Penguins require specialized care and a very specific environment to thrive.
  • Potential Health Risks and Zoonotic Diseases: As with any wild animal, there is a risk of diseases being transmitted from penguins to humans.

What Are Some Alternatives to Keeping a Penguin as a Pet?

If owning a penguin is not possible or desirable, there are other ways to interact with these amazing creatures.

  1. Visiting a Zoo or Aquarium: Visiting a zoo or aquarium is a great way to observe and learn about penguins while also supporting conservation efforts.
  2. Volunteering at a Rescue or Rehabilitation Center: Many organizations that work with penguins and other marine animals offer volunteer opportunities that allow for hands-on experiences.
  3. Supporting Conservation Efforts for Penguins: Donating to and supporting organizations that work towards the conservation of penguin species is a great way to make a positive impact on these animals.

Can Penguins Be Pets?

Owning a penguin as a pet is not possible or ethical. Penguins have specific environmental and social requirements that cannot be fulfilled in a domestic environment. They need a cold climate, access to water for swimming, a diverse diet, and the companionship of other penguins. Furthermore, penguins are protected under wildlife conservation laws, and keeping them as pets is against the law in many locations.

Ultimately, penguins cannot be kept as pets.

What Types of Penguins Can Be Kept as Pets?

While penguins are beloved and charismatic creatures, many people may wonder if they can make suitable pets. The answer is not a simple yes or no, as there are various factors to consider. In this section, we will discuss the different types of penguins that can potentially be kept as pets. From African penguins to Little Blue penguins, we will explore the unique characteristics and care requirements of each species. By the end, you will have a better understanding of which penguin may be the best fit for you as a pet.

1. African Penguins

  • Research: Gain a thorough understanding of the specific needs and requirements of African penguins as pets.
  • Habitat: Construct a suitable environment, such as a large and secure enclosure with access to water, for the penguins to thrive in.
  • Diet: Ensure a balanced and nutritious diet for the penguins, consisting of fish, squid, and other marine foods.
  • Legalities: Adhere to all local and international laws and regulations regarding the ownership and care of African penguins.

Pro-tip: Consider volunteering at a penguin conservation center to gain valuable knowledge and experience in caring for these unique creatures before making the decision to keep them as pets.

2. Galapagos Penguins

  1. The Galapagos penguins, a unique species of penguins, are found exclusively on the Galapagos Islands.
  2. Unlike other penguin species, they are able to thrive in warmer climates and can even be found near the equator thanks to the cooler waters brought by the Humboldt Current.

3. Humboldt Penguins

  • Prepare a suitable habitat for Humboldt penguins with access to both water for swimming and land for nesting.
  • Ensure the enclosure is large enough to accommodate a group of these penguins, as they thrive in colonies.
  • Provide a diet of fish, squid, and other marine foods that meet their specific nutritional needs.

Did you know? These penguins can reach speeds of up to 20 miles per hour while swimming underwater.

4. Magellanic Penguins

Magellanic Penguins are easily recognizable by their black and white bodies and are primarily found along the coasts of South America, specifically in Argentina, Chile, and the Falkland Islands. These medium-sized penguins are known for the unique black horseshoe-shaped bands that adorn their white bellies. They are fascinating creatures, often observed in large breeding colonies.

5. Rockhopper Penguins

  • Rockhopper penguins are renowned for their unique skill of hopping from one rock to another, effortlessly navigating their rocky habitats.

6. Yellow-eyed Penguins

  • Yellow-eyed penguins are a rare and native species of penguin found in New Zealand.
  • Help protect their habitat by supporting conservation efforts and promoting sustainable fishing practices.
  • Spread awareness about the endangerment of yellow-eyed penguins through education and advocacy.
  • Consider supporting organizations dedicated to the conservation and rehabilitation of these penguins.


  1. Plan a trip to New Zealand to observe yellow-eyed penguins in their natural habitat.
  2. Explore eco-tourism opportunities that allow you to witness these magnificent creatures while also contributing to their preservation.

7. Little Blue Penguins

Suggestions: While the idea of owning a little blue penguin may seem charming, it’s crucial to prioritize their well-being and conservation in their natural habitats.

  1. Ensure Legalities: Check local laws and regulations regarding ownership of little blue penguins.
  2. Expert Consultation: Seek advice from avian experts or organizations dedicated to penguin conservation.
  3. Habitat Preparation: Create a suitable environment for little blue penguins, including a cold and spacious enclosure with access to water.
  4. Dietary and Medical Needs: Understand and fulfill their dietary and medical requirements, consulting with veterinarians if necessary.
  5. Enrichment: Provide mental and physical stimulation to ensure the well-being of little blue penguins.
  6. Commitment: Be prepared for a lifelong commitment, as little blue penguins require specialized care and attention.
  7. Support Conservation: Consider supporting conservation efforts for little blue penguins instead of keeping them as pets.

What Are the Legalities and Regulations of Owning a Penguin?

While penguins may seem like adorable and lovable creatures, the reality is that they are not suitable as pets for the average person. Not only do they require specific habitats and diets, but there are also legalities and regulations that must be considered before owning a penguin. In this section, we will discuss the various laws and regulations, including CITES regulations, the Marine Mammal Protection Act, and the Animal Welfare Act, that govern the ownership of penguins. By understanding these laws, we can gain a better understanding of the complexities and responsibilities involved in owning a penguin as a pet.

1. CITES Regulations

  • Familiarize yourself with the CITES regulations regarding penguin ownership in your country.
  • Make sure to comply with all necessary documentation and permit requirements.
  • Be aware of the legal implications and responsibilities that come with owning a penguin.

Thinking about having a penguin as a pet? While it may seem tempting, it’s important to prioritize the well-being of the penguin and explore other ways to support penguin conservation efforts.

2. Marine Mammal Protection Act

The Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) is a crucial legislation enacted to protect and preserve marine mammal species in U.S. waters. It strictly prohibits the taking, import, and export of marine mammals and their products, ensuring their continued conservation and protection. However, exceptions are made for scientific research, public display, and indigenous subsistence hunting under the MMPA.

Recently, a team of dedicated researchers focused on marine mammal conservation worked tirelessly to rescue an injured dolphin that had become stranded on a beach. Through round-the-clock care and rehabilitation, the dolphin made a full recovery and was successfully released back into its natural habitat.

3. Animal Welfare Act

The Animal Welfare Act is a critical legislation governing the treatment of animals in captivity. When considering penguins as pets, it’s essential to adhere to the guidelines outlined in this act to ensure the well-being of these animals.

Some suggestions for prospective penguin owners include:

  • Researching and understanding the specific needs of penguins.
  • Creating an environment that closely mimics their natural habitat.
  • Considering alternative ways to support penguin conservation efforts.

What Are the Pros and Cons of Keeping a Penguin as a Pet?

Have you ever wondered if penguins can make good pets? While these adorable birds may seem like the perfect companions, there are important factors to consider before bringing one into your home. In this section, we will examine the pros and cons of keeping a penguin as a pet. From their unique and interesting nature to the specialized care and potential health risks involved, we will explore all the aspects of owning a penguin as a pet. So, let’s dive into the world of penguin ownership and discover if they truly make suitable pets.


  • Unique companionship: Penguins can provide a unique and fascinating companionship due to their distinctive characteristics and behaviors.
  • Entertainment value: Watching penguins can be extremely enjoyable and entertaining, adding joy and amusement to everyday life.
  • Educational opportunities: Keeping penguins can offer educational opportunities for learning about marine life, ecosystems, and environmental conservation.

1. Unique and Interesting Pet

  • Penguins, as unique and interesting pets, require specialized care, such as a cold climate, a large space for swimming, and a diet of fish and squid.
  • Before considering penguins as pets, it is important to research local laws and regulations, as many places prohibit keeping them due to their specific needs and protected status.
  • Ensure you have the resources and commitment to provide for the penguin’s welfare before making any decisions.

In 2012, a man in Peru was found to have kept two penguins as pets, raising concerns for the penguins’ well-being and sparking a debate on exotic pet ownership.

2. Low Maintenance

  • Choose a suitable habitat: Penguins require a spacious, climate-controlled environment mimicking their natural habitat.
  • Provide a balanced diet: Feed them a variety of fish, squid, and krill, ensuring they receive essential nutrients.
  • Maintain cleanliness: Keep their living space clean and hygienic to prevent health issues.
  • Regular check-ups: Schedule routine veterinary visits to ensure their well-being.

Consider a low-maintenance pet like a fish or a reptile if you’re not ready for the commitment of caring for a penguin.

3. Bonding with Your Penguin

  • Establish trust by spending time near the penguin without making sudden movements or loud noises.
  • Offer favorite foods as a gesture of goodwill and care, observing the penguin’s preferences.
  • Engage in interactive play, using toys or objects to encourage the penguin’s curiosity and sociability.

Ensure a positive environment for your penguin, fostering trust and companionship through patience and understanding. This is an essential part of bonding with your penguin and creating a strong relationship.


Some drawbacks to consider when keeping penguins as pets are:

  • Legal restrictions: Many countries have laws prohibiting private ownership of penguins due to their protected status.
  • Specialized care: Penguins require specific environmental conditions, diet, and social interactions, which can be challenging to replicate in a domestic setting.
  • Space and habitat: Adequate space for swimming, diving, and socializing is crucial, making it impractical for most households.

1. Expensive and Difficult to Obtain

  • Cost: The initial purchase cost for a penguin is expensive and can range from $5,000 to $20,000 due to specialized housing and care requirements.
  • Legal restrictions: Owning penguins as pets is illegal in most places, requiring special permits and licenses.
  • Habitat: Constructing a suitable habitat for penguins, complete with a pool, appropriate temperature, and enough space, can be a challenging task.

Pro-tip: If you want to interact with penguins in an ethical and responsible way, consider volunteering at a local wildlife conservation center.

2. Specialized Care and Environment Needed

  • Research and education: Learn about the specialized care and environment needed for penguins, including their natural habitat and behaviors.
  • Habitat preparation: Create a suitable environment that mimics their natural habitat and climate conditions.
  • Diet and nutrition: Provide a balanced diet including fish, squid, and krill to meet their specific nutritional requirements.
  • Healthcare and veterinary support: Find an experienced avian veterinarian for regular check-ups and specialized care.

A wildlife rehabilitation center successfully rehabilitated a stranded penguin, ensuring it returned to its natural habitat healthy and thriving.

3. Potential Health Risks and Zoonotic Diseases

  • Regular Veterinary Check-ups: It is important to schedule routine check-ups for penguins in order to monitor their health and detect any potential diseases early.
  • Proper Sanitation: It is crucial to maintain a clean environment for penguins to minimize the risk of zoonotic diseases spreading to humans.
  • Health Screening: Prioritizing health screenings can help ensure that penguins are free from zoonotic diseases and other potential health risks.

Given the potential health risks and zoonotic diseases associated with keeping penguins as pets, it is essential to prioritize the well-being of both the penguin and the owner. By implementing regular veterinary check-ups, maintaining proper sanitation, and conducting health screenings, these risks can be mitigated and a safe and healthy environment can be maintained for both the penguin and its owner.

What Are Some Alternatives to Keeping a Penguin as a Pet?

While the idea of having a penguin as a pet may seem unique and interesting, it’s important to consider the well-being of these animals in captivity. In this section, we will discuss alternative ways to interact with penguins without keeping them as pets. These alternatives include visiting a zoo or aquarium, where you can observe and learn about penguins in a controlled and ethical environment. Let’s explore these options in more detail.

1. Visiting a Zoo or Aquarium (Keywords: zoo, aquarium, unique, interesting

  • Visit a zoo or aquarium to observe penguins in a controlled environment.
  • Explore the unique and interesting features of penguins, such as their tuxedo-like appearance and their adorable waddling walk.
  • Learn about penguin behavior and habitat from the knowledgeable zoo or aquarium staff.
  • Understand the fascinating adaptations of penguins for their aquatic lifestyle, including their streamlined bodies and flipper-like wings.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I legally own a penguin as a pet in the United States?

No, penguins are considered exotic animals and are protected by international laws. It is not legal or ethical to own a penguin as a pet in any country.

How does the world conservation union protect penguins?

The World Conservation Union drafted and signed the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora in order to protect endangered species, including penguins. This prohibits the purchase of penguins as pets.

Why are penguins considered exotic animals?

Penguins are considered exotic animals due to their unique physical characteristics and the fact that they are not typically found as pets in domestic settings. They are also not native to the United States.

Can I use Google’s Natural Language API to determine if owning a penguin is legal?

Yes, Google’s Natural Language API can analyze the legal side of owning a penguin as a pet and provide an NLP score on the likelihood of it being a legal option. However, it is important to note that this does not change the fact that it is not ethical to own a penguin as a pet.

What is the coolest pet ever award and why do people want to win it by owning exotic pets?

The coolest pet ever award is not a real award, but rather a desire for people to have the most unique and impressive pet. Many people are interested in owning exotic pets, such as penguins, in order to impress others and win this imaginary award.

Why is owning a penguin as a pet not a suitable or ethical option?

Even if someone were to illegally obtain a penguin as a pet, it would not be a suitable or ethical living situation for the animal. Penguins are wild animals that require specific environments and companionship, which cannot be provided in a domestic setting. Additionally, penguins are an endangered species and should be protected, not kept as pets.

Julian Goldie - Owner of

Julian Goldie

I'm a bird enthusiast and creator of Chipper Birds, a blog sharing my experience caring for birds. I've traveled the world bird watching and I'm committed to helping others with bird care. Contact me at [email protected] for assistance.