A TOTAL of 22 gentoo penguin chicks have hatched at Edinburgh Zoo so far this season.
The first chicks hatched on 5 May and the rest have all slowly started to peek their beaks out of their shells since then.
As the tiny chicks are growing into adorably fluffy youngsters, the keepers perform regular weigh-ins to ensure the chicks are growing well, are healthy and are getting enough food. The chicks are weighed daily until they reach a weight of 500g, after which they are weighed every second day until they reach 2.5kg, and then once a week until they join the crèche.
Dawn Nicoll, Senior Penguin Keeper at RZSS Edinburgh Zoo, said: “The chicks are all growing so quickly. Whilst some are still quite small, weighing just over 500g, the chicks which hatched at the beginning of May are getting really big, weighing as much as 3kg.
“By weighing the chicks regularly we can monitor their health and make sure they are getting enough food. Once the chicks get a bit older they will leave the nest site and join a crèche away from their parents, where they will learn all the essential penguin skills such as how to feed and swim.”
The penguin breeding season at RZSS Edinburgh Zoo began in early March with the annual placing of the nest rings and pebbles into Penguins Rock, before the male penguins sought out the best looking and smoothest pebbles to ‘propose’ to their potential mates. The first eggs were laid over Easter weekend.
Due to the decline in their populations, gentoo penguins are listed as Near Threatened on the IUCN Red List. Reasons for their decline include increased illegal egg collection and oil exploration around the Falkland Islands, as well as disturbance from tourism which is leading to decreased breeding productivity.
Penguins have been an integral part of RZSS Edinburgh Zoo for over 100 years and the Zoo has the largest outdoor penguin pool in Europe. They were one of the first species that arrived and the Zoo and the Society became world renowned when they were the first outside the southern hemisphere to breed king penguins. The world famous daily Penguin Parade began in 1951 when a keeper accidentally left the gate open and the penguins went for a short walk and then returned to their enclosure – keepers still open the gate every day at 2.15pm and birds who voluntarily want to take part go for a short walk outside their enclosure.