9 May 2012

Keepers have named the new chicks after top UK athletes as a show of support for our medal hopefuls, ahead of this year’s games.

First to hatch was Macey and the last to arrive will be called Gunnell. Also born so far are Wiggins, Hoy, Ennis, and Tweddle.

The penguins are an endangered South American species, which come from the coastal areas of Peru and Chile.

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

Keeper Karen Neech said:

“It will be around eight weeks before the youngsters leave the nests and so we’re keeping a very close eye on their development.

“So far we have had nine chicks hatch, making it a really, really busy time for us and the adult penguins.

“A lot more food is required with all these extra mouths to feed.

“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.”

The new arrivals mean then zoo now has a colony of more than 40 Humboldt penguins.

In around eight weeks’ time, once the youngsters have developed enough to leave their nests, they will first learn how to swim in the zoo’s ‘baby pool’, before joining their parents on-show in the main pool.

Chester Zoo also 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.