The first Humboldt Penguin chicks of 2015 have emerged from their eggs at Chester Zoo.
Weighing only two ounces, baby chick Panay – named after an exotic island in the Philippines – was the first of eight to hatch at the zoo. The next seven hatchlings were named after other islands: Papua, Bali, Sumatra, Sulawesi, Sumba, Java, and Tuma.
Photo Credit: Chester Zoo
Since the chicks hatched, zookeepers have been carefully observing their nutrition, weight, and development in the nest. The chicks are weighed daily, and their parents receive extra fish so they can feed their new babies. It’s working – some of the chicks weigh seven times their hatch weight after only a few weeks.
Each pair of the South American species, which come from the coastal areas of Peru and Chile, lays two eggs and incubates them for 40 days. Both parents help rear the young until they are fully fledged, before making their tentative first splash in the pool with the rest of the colony. Humboldt Penguins are named after the chilly Humboldt current that parallels South America's west coast and carries abundant marine life.
Of the world’s 17 Penguin species, Humboldt Penguins are among the most at risk, being classified as Vulnerable to extinction by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. Their decline is due in part to extensive mining of guano beds. The guano beds, consisting of hundreds of years of accumulated bird droppings, make excellent fertilizer. But the Penguins need the guano beds as nesting grounds, so when the guano is removed, the Penguins have nowhere to nest. Overfishing of the Penguins’ prey species, climate change, and rising acidity levels in the ocean also contribute to their decline.
See more photos of the chicks below.