A rare Gentoo penguin has hatched at the National Sea Life Centre in Birmingham. The fluffy new arrival is a first for 2017 and part of a global breeding project aimed at increasing the declining penguin population.
Spanning three continents, the programme saw 4 year old dad Pablo, a Gentoo from New Zealand pair with 6 year old mum, Arabel, who came all the way from Calgary in Canada. The penguins arrived in 2014 and 2016 respectively and were joined most recently by a group from Billund in Denmark in an effort to diversify the gene pool.
The yet to be named chick weighed 91 grams at birth and will stay close to mum until it’s old enough to swim and feed itself. A DNA test will need to be carried out to determine the sex of the penguin after three to four months.
Gentoo numbers have declined rapidly and now 19 different Sea Life attractions are actively involved in breeding programmes. Factors including loss of habitat, pollution and the illegal collection of eggs, as well as the birds’ sensitive breeding nature, have all contributed to the loss of Gentoo numbers.
Hayley Roberts, penguin specialist at the National Sea Life Centre, said: “We are overjoyed at the arrival of our first ever Gentoo baby – the first this year in England. Gentoos are notoriously tricky to encourage to breed because they are such sensitive birds and we have worked tirelessly from when the breeding programme was first conceived – more than three years ago now – to make sure every detail was perfect for our penguins.
“First we had to make sure we found the right genetic matches for each bird because if the gene pool isn’t diverse enough there can be big problems. We also had to make sure their environment was as close as we could make it to the most ideal conditions in the wild – we factored in temperature, lighting, colours, food, the right rocks and pebbles for use in social activities and the right amount of water for swimming.
“We then had to transport our penguins from three different continents, so our chick really is the most wanted baby we’ve ever tried to breed – we have moved mountains for its parents to conceive, so we are overwhelmed with delight at its arrival.”
For further information about the National Sea Life Centre’s ‘Breed, Rescue, Protect’ conservation programme or to book tickets to see the baby chick in the flesh, visit: http://www.sealife.co.uk/birmingham