3 Jan 2013

Weighing just 66g, the baby chick Doctor is one of the first Humboldt penguins to hatch at the zoo this year.

Given that the baby was already doing well the only real poser for keepers was what to call their new charge – and the others due to hatch after him.

Last year’s clutch got their names from British Olympic stars – this year they are named after icons from the hit TV show Dr Who, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year.

Doctor has already been joined by Tardis, Davros and Dalek.

Keeper Karen Neech said:

“Just as Dr Who has his companion we’re very much the companions for the baby chicks at the moment – we’re weighing them daily to make sure they’re developing properly and feeding from their parents.

“With extra mouths to feed a lot more food is required, so it’s a busy time for both us and the adult penguins.

“We provide the parents with fish and they then turn it into a high-protein soup, which they then regurgitate to feed to the chicks. So it’s a real combined effort – but without a sonic screwdriver in sight!”

The penguins are an endangered South American species, which come from the coastal areas of Peru and Chile. The new arrivals mean the zoo now has a colony of more than 40.

Each pair lays two eggs and will incubate them for 40 days up to hatching. Both parents are then involved in incubating and rearing the young.

After around eight weeks they will leave the nest and learn how to swim in the zoo’s ‘baby pool’, before joining their parents in the main pool.

Chester Zoo funds conservation initiatives in the penguins’ homeland to help them in their natural habitat, where they are faced with many pressures including over fishing of their food and habitat loss.

Fast Facts

• 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 • The species is classed as vulnerable to extinction by conservationists • Doctor’s parents are called Éclair and Poppet (named after chocolates) • Doctor hatched on April 17