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Baby Penguin Season Kicks Off at Chester Zoo

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The first Humboldt Penguin chicks of 2014 have hatched at Chester Zoo in England. With the first chick hatched and healthy, the only real headache for keepers was what to call their new charge – and the others due to hatch after him. Last year’s clutch were named after characters from the hit TV show Dr Who. This year they are named after past and present superstars of the football (or soccer) World Cup. 

Weighing just  3 ounces (87 g), baby chick Rooney (shown above; named after England forward Wayne) is one of the first Humboldt Penguins to hatch at the zoo this year. Rooney has already been joined by Gerrard (after current England captain Steven), Banks (after 1966 World Cup winning goalkeeper Gordon) and Moore (after 1966 World Cup winning captain Bobby)

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4 penguinPhoto credit: Chester Zoo / Steve Rawlins


Lead Penguin Keeper Karen Neech said, “Choosing names for the chicks is always a poser but with one eye on the World Cup we decided to kick off this year’s football campaign with some stars of our own. 

“Footballers have very strict diets and things are just the same for our new arrivals. But whereas footballers can look forward to a protein shake ours grow strong on a diet of regurgitated ‘fish smoothie’ provided by their parents.”

The new arrivals mean the zoo now has a colony of over 35 Humboldt Penguins.

Read more after the fold.

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. Once the chicks fledge after about eight weeks they will leave the nest and begin toddler training in the zoo’s special penguin crèche, with the end goal seeing the chicks join their parents in the main pool. 

The penguins are a South American species from the coastal areas of Peru and Chile. Of the world’s 17 penguin species, Humboldts are among the most at risk, with the species classed as Vulnerable to extinction by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. They are named after the chilly Humboldt current, along which they commonly swim.  They enjoy a diet of small fish (anchovies, herring, smelt) and crustaceans. In the wild, Humboldt Penguins are vulnerable to disturbances in their food chain caused by strong El Nino currents

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.