Chester Zoo welcomes eleven new penguin chicks in biggest hatching in a decade

ITV Granada journalist Andrew Fletcher reports from Chester Zoo. He spoke to zookeepers Casey Povy and Mark Vercoe.

A UK zoo has welcomed 11 penguin chicks - the most during a single hatching season for more than a decade.

The Humboldt penguin chicks, which is a breed Chester Zoo describes as being most at risk from extinction, are said to be healthy and well looked after by their parents.

The keepers say they're "delighted" after the chicks have been nurtured beyond the first 40 days of life.

To help them keep track of the new chicks, a different naming theme is selected each year.

The chicks are named after plants. Credit: Chester Zoo

Previous topics have included NHS heroes, brands of crisps, chocolate bars and British Olympic athletes.

This year, the chicks are being named after plants, with Nettle, Thistle, Dandelion, Tulip and Daffodil among the confirmed names so far.

Zoe Sweetman, Team Manager of Parrots and Penguins at Chester Zoo, said: “This year has been a really good year for the penguins with the arrival of 11 new chicks – the most we’ve welcomed during hatching season here at the zoo for more than a decade.

“We’re delighted to say that all of the chicks are looking really healthy and the parents have done a superb job of caring for their new arrivals up to this point.

“As keepers, our main role in raising the new youngsters is to ensure the adult penguins have all they need.

"Sometimes this can mean providing extra fish, which the parents swallow, churn into a high-protein soup, and then regurgitate to feed the chicks.

The baby penguins hatched 40 days ago - and are flourishing, according to keepers. Credit: Chester Zoo

"We also weigh the chicks regularly so that we can monitor their development – on average they’ve gone from a mere 80g to 2.5kg in just 40 days. It’s been a huge team effort.

“Each year the team chooses a new naming theme for the chicks. With 11 to name we could have chosen to name after an entire football team, but this year we’ve decided to go with plants.

"Nettle and Thistle are the more spiky characters among the group, whereas tulip and daffodil have colourful personalities.”

Humboldt penguins are becoming increasingly rare and are now listed as vulnerable to extinction by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

Found on the rocky coastal shores of Peru and Chile, the penguins face threats from climate change, over-fishing of their natural food sources and rising acidity and temperature levels in the oceans.

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