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04 27/04/2015

Cracking news as penguins hatch

  • New arrivals
  • Penguins
  • Birds

The first Humboldt penguin chicks of 2015 have emerged from their eggs.

Penguin chicks at Chester Zoo
Happy feet! Penguins Panay and Papua are two of six chicks to have hatched at Chester Zoo

Weighing only 68g, baby chick Panay – named after an exotic island in the Philippines – is the first of eight to hatch at the zoo.

Each year, zookeepers use a naming theme for newly-born chicks, which has previously included British Olympic athletes, England football legends and even chocolate bars.  The chicks have been named after the South East Asian development that visitors will enjoy later in the summer when the zoo unveils its new £40m Islands development.

Team manager Andy Woolham explains:

Naming the penguins is a bit of fun for the team, it allows us to track the age of the birds easily because doing it by their spot pattern can be challenging.

This year, we decided to celebrate the up-coming opening of our new Islands development and named the chicks in the order that visitors will see each island whilst on their very own expedition. Although the penguins aren’t moving to Islands, given that it’s such a momentous moment in the zoo’s history, we thought our new fluffy friends could help us mark the occasion.

We named the first chick Panay, who was quickly followed by Papua, Bali, Sumatra, Sulawesi, and Sumba, but we’re still eagerly waiting for a few more eggs to hatch!

Since the chicks hatched, zookeepers have been carefully observing their nutrition, weight and development in the nest.

Penguin keeper Sally Baross added:

The team closely monitor the chicks, weighing them daily and giving extra fish to the parents so that they can feed their hungry new arrivals.

All of the chicks are doing really well and have grown incredibly quickly. The first chick, Panay, was only 68g on hatching but has soon shot up to 450g so we’re really pleased.

Each pair of the South American species - which come from the coastal areas of Peru and Chile - lays two eggs and incubates them for 40 days up until hatching. Both parents are then involved in rearing the young until they are fully fledged, before making their tentative first splash in main pool area with the rest of the colony.

Of the world’s 17 penguin species, Humboldt penguins are among the most at risk, being classed as ‘vulnerable’ to extinction by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

Chester Zoo funds conservation initiatives in the penguins’ homeland, where they are threatened by over-fishing, climate change and rising acidity levels in the ocean. 

Humboldt penguin facts

  • Penguin chick Panay hatched on April 11
  • The scientific name of the Humboldt penguin is Spheniscus humboldti
  • This South American penguin is named after the chilly Humboldt current, along which it commonly swims
  • In the wild, Humboldt penguins are vulnerable to disturbances in their food chain caused by strong El Nino currents
  • Humboldt penguins are social animals, living in relatively large colonies of closely spaced burrows
  • Humboldt penguins ‘fly’ through the water at speeds of up to 25mph
  • They enjoy a diet of small fish (anchovies, herring, smelt) and crustaceans

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