Marwell Zoo: Eggcellent news as threatened Humboldt penguins hatch!

April 16, 2020

Marwell Zoo is celebrating the arrival of two Humboldt penguin chicks which hatched over the Easter weekend.

The tiny youngsters –threatened Humboldt penguins from South America- mark the first successful breeding at the zoo since 2015 with more eggs expected to hatch later in the month. It marks a vital contribution to the European breeding programme for the vulnerable species.

Each pair of penguins lays two eggs and will incubate them for 40 days up to hatching.

First time parents Lucy and Buddy laid two fertile eggs so to give the chicks the best possible start, one youngster is being fostered by parents Billy and Jupiter, whose eggs were infertile.

Both sets of new mothers and fathers are involved in the incubation and rearing of the chicks, who will not leave the nest for around eight weeks.

For the first few weeks, zoo keepers leave the parents to nurture their young, only opening the next box to feed. They will carry out health and development checks at around four weeks old.

Keepers use a different naming theme each year to help them keep track of the chicks, such as varieties of icecream or planets, but they are yet to name the latest arrivals.

Senior bird keeper Jess Borer, said: “They are all doing really well and we’re all really excited. For a lot of the Marwell birds team, it’s the first time we’ve been able to breed so there’s a lot of excitement, and though we are working a rota system due to coronavirus, we’re making sure we keep each other updated.

“We like to be very hands off to make sure the parents are relaxed so we can only hear them cheeping or catch a glimpse when we give the parents extra fish in their nest box and the adult stands to feed. The parents take it turns to feed and the penguins semi-digest the fish before regurgitating it for their chick.”

Humboldt penguins are found along the coasts of Peru and Chile, and are listed as vulnerable to extinction on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species.

Marwell Zoo, near Winchester, has so far raised £10,000 after launching a fundraising appeal to help cover basic animal costs such as feed, bedding and heating during the coronavirus lockdown.

A dedicated team of zookeepers and vets are working tirelessly to ensure the zoo’s animals, many of which are endangered species and part of important global breeding programmes, receive the same high level of care and attention.

To help the conservation charity through these difficult times, you can adopt an animal, including new mother Lucy the penguin or donate here

Marwell Zoo, home to more than 140 species, is owned by Marwell Wildlife, a global conservation charity leading programmes in the UK, Africa and across the world. The charity engages with over 50,000 schoolchildren through curriculum-based education programmes and welcomes more than 500,000 visitors each year to its 140-acre site.