Zookeepers at ZSL London Zoo swoop in and hand-rear five adorable penguin chicks
Zookeepers at ZSL London Zoo have their hands full in the penguin nursery this month – feeding and caring for five hungry Humboldt penguin chicks, after their parents were unable to look after them.
The fluffy fivesome - who all hatched at the conservation zoo between Saturday 14 and Sunday 24 April - have spent four weeks cosying up to a cuddly toy penguin under the warming glow of a heat lamp, with dedicated keepers looking after them in shifts.
ZSL London Zoo penguin keeper Suzi Hyde said: “During breeding season, we check the nests on Penguin Beach every day, keeping an eye out for any chicks who might not be feeding enough or whose parents are struggling to care for their brood.
“These five chicks all had first-time parents who needed a little bit of extra support, so we were happy to swoop in – with a little help from a few soft toy penguins, donated by the Zoo shop, for them to snuggle up to.”
Covered in soft grey feathers, the tiny flightless birds are weighed every morning and hand-fed three times a day with a special diet of blended fish, vitamins and minerals – referred to by ZSL London Zoo’s keepers as a ‘penguin milkshake’; as they grow bigger, they’ll also be weaned onto small portions of fresh fish to support their development.
The as yet unsexed chicks are expected to stay in the nursery until they each reach 10-weeks-old, by which time they should have grown from 73g at hatch, to around 3kg in weight.
They'll then move into the Zoo’s nursery pool, which has shallow water for swimming lessons, before eventually being introduced to the 62 other penguins and their 1500sqm Penguin Beach pool – the largest in the UK.
“The chicks have all steadily increased in weight by 10 per cent each day, so they’re growing very quickly,” said Suzi. “They’re always eager for their next meal and make sure we know it’s feeding time – they may be only a month old, but they’ve definitely perfected their squawk!”
In celebration of ZSL Patron HM The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee, the five chicks have all been named after important moments in Her Majesty’s 70-year reign: Hillary, after Sir Edmund Hillary scaling Everest in 1953; Apollo, to mark the moon landing in 1969; Bobby, in honour of England captain Bobby Moore leading a World Cup win in 1966; Bernie, after Tim Berners-Lee, who invented the internet in 1989; and Mac, after Ellen MacArthur, who sailed around the world non-stop to set a new world record in 2005.
Suzi added: “When these five chicks arrived, we decided to mark Her Majesty’s Platinum Jubilee by naming them Hillary, Apollo, Bobby, Bernie and Mac, after some of the historic moments that have taken place during her incredible reign.
“We’re excitedly counting down to the Zoo’s Zoobilee Festival, which will take place between Saturday 28 May and Sunday 5 June - a Jubilee celebration featuring lawn games, sweet treats and a new outdoor gallery paying tribute to ZSL’s longest-serving royal patron.”
Celebrate the Jubilee and enjoy a great family day out this May half-term with the Zoobilee Festival at ZSL London Zoo.