Penguin mega-fans, Will and Matt Bond, have landed their dream jobs as SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium's Junior Penguin Reporters. The brothers, aged eight and eleven respectively, won the title as part of a social media search for the state's most passionate young penguin fan.
As part of their exciting new roles, the Illawarra locals will film an engaging web series focused on the conservation of Gentoo and King penguins in the wild and feature in the launch of SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium's world-first Penguin Expedition in November.
The siblings also won a unique on-ice experience with the penguins in Penguin Expedition – getting up close to the majestic creatures in a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
Will and Matt said that the opportunity to become the SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium Junior Penguin Reporters and hang out with Sydney's first colony of sub-Antarctic Penguins is a dream come true.
'We absolutely love penguins and cannot wait to meet them. We've been reading all about the cheeky Gentoo Penguins who were the first colony to arrive at Penguin Expedition. The King Penguins are the second largest penguin in the world and very majestic. They're still in Melbourne changing their feathers (otherwise known as moulting) and will be arriving in December," said Will.
'We can't wait to tell people about them and how we can all help protect their natural habitats by reducing how much single use plastic we use," added Matt.
Richard Dilly, General Manager of SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium, said the team was extremely impressed with all of the entries received. Matt and Will wowed the judges across the two rounds of the video competition with their personalities, enthusiasm and creativity.
'We've been blown away by the quality of the entries and would like to thank all participants, including our brilliant finalists and all the parents who supported their bright sparks in entering.
'We're excited to see Will and Matt not only become our first Junior Penguin Reporters, but also become conservation ambassadors to help educate visitors on the impact plastic pollution has on wild penguin colonies.
'We know that Will and Matt will become great advocates and help us encourage visitors to reduce their plastic footprint in order to protect our marline life," said Dilly.
Alongside their coveted reporting roles, Will and Matt have won an annual family pass to SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium, plus 10 other Merlin Entertainments attractions.
At a cost of $9 million dollars, Penguin Expedition is SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium's biggest creature investment since opening 28 years ago, and will play an important part in the venue's efforts to breed, rescue and protect these beautiful birds.
Penguin Expedition is inspired by Macquarie Island – an Australian owned island that lies in the southwest Pacific Ocean – and will create an explorer out of every guest as they travel through a rugged environment at a cool but comfortable six degrees Celsius.
The King and Gentoo Penguins joining the attraction will be a welcome addition to the 13,000 animals from 700 different species already in residence at SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium.
Known for being curious and playful, Gentoos reach a maximum weight of 8.5kg, while King Penguins can grow up to 100 cm tall and weigh 11 to 16 kg. They live in freezing conditions, can withstand the harsh winter environment and love fish.
Entrance to Penguin Expedition – including daily feeds and talks from dedicated keepers and trainers – is included in the cost of general admission. Visitors are urged to book tickets in advance to avoid missing out on this very cool experience.
For more information, visit www.sealifesydney.com.au.
Sea Life Sydney Aquarium Details
What: SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium, Aquarium Wharf, Darling Harbour (right next door to WILD LIFE Sydney Zoo and Madame Tussauds Sydney)
Opening hours: Open daily from 9.30am
Cost: Book online and save. Walk-up price – Adults: $42, Children (4-15yrs): $28
Question: How did you land your dream job as SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium's Junior Penguin Reporters?
Will and Matt Bond: We entered SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium's Facebook competition to prove that we are New South Wale's biggest penguin fans. Our parents helped us film a news report explaining why they are our favourite animal. We tried to be as creative as possible, to make sure we had a good chance at winning – and we did!
Question: What does it mean, to you, to be a A LIFE Sydney Aquarium's Junior Penguin Reporter?
Will and Matt Bond: Being Junior Penguin Reporters means the world! We love penguins so much and winning this once in a lifetime experience is the best thing that has ever happened to us. As part of our new roles, we also get to be conservation ambassadors and support SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium's mission to breed, rescue and protect these amazing animals.
We're helping to spread the word on how people can protect the natural habitat of sub-Antarctic penguins, which is being destroyed by plastic pollution. We'll be doing this by filming a web series, which will be posted on SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium's Facebook page, so make sure you like the page and check them out when they're published.
Question: How does it feel to have this role, with your brother? Why is your brother your best co-reporter?
Will and Matt Bond: We both feel so lucky and excited to share this awesome experience together. We can support and bounce off each other when we're on camera. We're best friends and know one another so well that we can even finish each other's sentences. We'll never forget this once in a lifetime opportunity.
Question: What do you find most interesting about penguins?
Will and Matt Bond: Gentoo penguins are the fastest underwater swimming bird – they can reach speeds of up to 36km per hour! They're also great divers, with some going as deep as 150 metres. They can reduce their heart rate from 80-100 beats per minute to only 20 which lets them stay under water for longer
Question: Can you tell us about the SEA LIFE Sydney Penguin Expedition attraction?
Will and Matt Bond: Penguin Expedition is a super cool, world first attraction that is inspired by Macquarie Island in the southwest Pacific Ocean – the natural home of sub-Antarctic penguins. It's six degrees inside so every guest gets to be an explorer and travel aboard a boat through flurries of snow, whistling winds and Southern Lights, making it feel like a real expedition.
Penguin Expedition also has lots of information about King and Gentoo penguins and the importance of protecting them in the wild. There is even a display of plastic rubbish found on Macquarie Island - 1,500kms from the nearest supermarket. It shows that what we do here impacts wild penguins more than we know.
Question: What was it like getting up close with the penguins on the ice?
Will and Matt Bond: We felt so lucky because not many people ever get the chance to go hand to flipper with a penguin! We were also extremely lucky as we got to go onto the ice to meet the Gentoos, they are really cute and very friendly. The King Penguins will arrive on Friday December 2, and they will be so cool to see. We also had heaps of fun learning from the amazing penguin trainers at SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium.
Question: What do you like most about penguins?
Will and Matt Bond: We love how curious and cheeky the Gentoos are, because they're just like us. It was great to meet them in person and also see how they each have their own personality.
Question: How can we take simple steps to protect Gentoo and King penguins' natural habitat?
Will and Matt Bond: Reduce, reuse and recycle single use plastic to help protect wild penguin colonies. Simple steps such as saying no to straws, using reusable shopping bags and water bottles we can all help protect our marine life.
Interview by Brooke Hunter