Keepers at West Midland Safari Park have been celebrating the arrival of a fluffy Humboldt penguin chick, the first to hatch at the park in its 44 year history.
The appearance of an egg on 9 March provided much excitement at the park, with a tiny, cute grey chick hatching five weeks later on 19 April. Keepers have been caring for the chick closely, giving it important daily health checks to make sure it puts on enough weight. At just 180 grammes at a week old, the chick now weighs in at 2,020 grammes 6 weeks later.
In the wild, Humboldt penguins inhabit the coasts of Peru and Chile and dig burrows into the sand or find small crevices in which to lay eggs. They may also dig burrows into guano cliffs, which are made up of years of accumulated droppings!
The park have provided the penguins with nest boxes and crevices in which to shelter and lay their eggs. The penguins started to pair up last year and when an egg is laid, couples will share nest duties, taking it in turns to incubate the egg.
Penguin Keeper, Vicky McFarlane said, “We are over the moon to welcome our first penguin chick to our colony. Mum, Ripple and Dad, Ebony are doing an amazing job and we can’t believe how fast the chick is growing. We have added extra fish to the parents’ diet, which they swallow and partially digest, then regurgitate straight into the chick’s mouth!
“This chick is extra special to us as Humboldt penguins are classified as ‘vulnerable’ in the wild with only 12,000 breeding pairs left. This is due to them being historically hunted for meat and their eggs and more recently, the depletion of fish stocks and harvesting of the birds’ guano nests. We hope our other penguin couples follow Ripple and Ebony’s lead and we can welcome some more chicks this year.”
West Midland Safari Park is open daily from 9am to 6.30pm, with further information available at www.wmsp.co.uk