WITH summer around the corner, the first of the gentoo penguin chicks at RZSS Edinburgh Zoo have started to poke their beaks out of their shells.
The first fluffy chick hatched on Thursday 5 May and was soon followed by another three hatchlings, two of which are on the same nest.
Penguin breeding season 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 and, after a 33-35 day incubation period, the chicks of 2016 have started to hatch!
Dawn Nicoll, Penguin Keeper at RZSS Edinburgh Zoo, said: “This is our favourite time of year as the new penguin chicks begin to hatch. The entire breeding season is an incredibly busy time, but it is all worth it when you see the tiny penguins start to break out of their shells and be cared for by both their parents.
The entire breeding season is an incredibly busy time, but it is all worth it when you see the tiny penguins start to break out of their shells and be cared for by both their parents.Dawn Nicoll
“The rest of the eggs should hatch over the next two to three weeks, as the penguins don’t all lay their eggs at the same time. We had a very successful breeding season last year, with 16 chicks hatching, so we are hoping for another successful year as gentoo penguins are classified as near threatened.”
Once the chicks get a little older, they will leave the nest and join a nearby crèche where they will learn all the skills essential to being a penguin, such as how to swim and feed.
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.