Five fluffy penguin chicks have hatched at the zoo – and our keepers have named them after NHS Heroes and hospitals.
The first of the tiny new arrivals – threatened Humboldt penguins – arrived on 26 March, closely followed by several others, the last of which emerged from its egg on 14 April.
To help them keep track of the new chicks, our conservationists select a different naming theme for the youngsters each year. Previous years’ topics have included brands of crisps, chocolate bars and British Olympic athletes.
This year, our keepers have recognised the amazing work of the UK’s NHS Heroes and have decided to pay homage to NHS Heroes and the hospitals they work at. The five chicks have been named Florence (after Florence Nightingale), Thomas (after St Thomas’ Hospital), Bevan (after Aneurin Bevan who founded the NHS), Arrowe (after Arrowe Park Hospital) and finally Countess (named after the zoo’s local hospital – the Countess of Chester Hospital).
The new chicks will spend the first eight weeks of life tucked away in their nests, with both mum and dad sharing parenting duties and caring for them.
The arrival of Humboldt penguin chicks always signals the start of spring and, although it’s still early days, the chicks look really healthy and the parents are doing a fab job of caring for their new arrivals.
To help with raising the new youngsters, we’re providing the parents some extra fish, which they swallow, churn into a high-protein soup and then regurgitate to feed the chicks. We also weigh the chicks regularly so that we can monitor their development, as they can more than triple in size and weight in the first three weeks!
Each year, the team chooses a new naming theme for the chicks and, given everything that is happening around us, we decided to name this year’s class after NHS hospitals in acknowledgment of our wonderful NHS Heroes – just as a little thank you from everyone here at the zoo.
Anne Morris, Lead Penguin Keeper
Humboldt penguins are becoming increasingly rare. Of the world’s 17 penguin species, they are now among the most at risk. They are listed as vulnerable to extinction by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
Found on the rocky coastal shores of Peru and Chile, the penguins face a number of threats such as climate change, over-fishing of their natural food sources and rising acidity and temperature levels in the oceans – all causing the penguins to search further from their nests for fish and increasing their vulnerability.