Zoo keepers become ‘parents’ for penguins

Two baby penguins abandoned by their parents are being hand reared by kindly keepers at Whipsnade Zoo.

Monday, 29th April 2013, 2:00 pm
New penguins at Whipsnade Zoo
New penguins at Whipsnade Zoo

The endangered African blackfooted chicks, called Bamm-Bamm and Pebbles, after the friendly Flintstones characters, are being fed small portions of fish twice a day in the zoo’s nursery.

Sporting fluffy coats of downy feathers the pair, who are yet to be sexed, were abandoned at just eight weeks old after their parents failed to feed them properly. They are being weighed regularly to monitor progress.

Keeper Mairee Vincent said: “It’s incredibly rewarding to see how far the chicks have come in the last month; they’re really beginning to thrive. Both are beginning to lose their fluffy grey feathers, with one of them currently sporting a very fetching Mohawk.

New penguins at Whipsnade Zoo

“As they grow up and get their first waterproof coating, they’ll move into the Zoo’s penguin training pool, where they’ll learn to swim and feed in the water. It will be a big step for them and will really help to build their confidence.”

Bamm-Bamm and Pebbles will eventually re-join ZSL Whipsnade Zoo’s colony of African black-footed penguins in the main pool, overlooking the Chiltern Downs, and be part of the European Breeding Programme for this threatened species.

This species of penguin is classified as Endangered by the IUCN because it is undergoing a very rapid population decline, probably as a result of commercial fisheries and shifts in prey populations.

They live in large colonies on rocky coastlines off South Africa and Namibia.