And just as school children learn their ABCs and 123s, the zoo’s youngsters are learning how to swim, hunt and feed in water.
Lead Keeper Anne Morris said:
“The chicks, which are the penguin equivalent of toddlers, have settled into our penguin crèche really well indeed. We have a small, shallow nursery pool which is the ideal place for them to take their first swim. They quickly figure out how to take fish from our keepers and are now no longer relying on regurgitated food from mum and dad. It’s all part of their education and really helps to build up their confidence.
“All five of the chicks are coming along nicely and it shouldn’t be too long until they all ‘graduate’ and join the rest of the colony in our main pool.”
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.
Dalek the Humboldt penguin chick is taught how to swim, hunt and feed in water in a special ‘nursery’ (left) while lead keeper Anne Morris teaches three-month-old Sonic how to swallow fish (right).
Each year keepers at the zoo name their new charges after a particular theme. In 2012 their clutch got their names from British Olympic stars and this time around they have been named after icons from the hit TV show Dr Who, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year.
Keeper Karen Neech added:
“Dalek, TARDIS and Gallifrey are showing a great appetite for learning but The Doctor is of course top of the class. Sonic is a little further behind the others but given a few more lessons, we’re sure he’ll catch up.”
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.
Humboldt penguin 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 • The first penguin to hatch at Chester Zoo was on April 17 and was named by keepers as The Doctor • The five penguin chicks are called The Doctor, Dalek, TARDIS and Gallifrey (all five months old) and Sonic (three months)