Saturday 1 October 2016

Irish zoo welcomes newborn penguin chicks

Meadhbh McGrath

Published 17/06/2016 | 13:25

Eight gentoo penguin chicks have hatched at Belfast Zoo.
Eight gentoo penguin chicks have hatched at Belfast Zoo.
Eight gentoo penguin chicks have hatched at Belfast Zoo.
Eight gentoo penguin chicks have hatched at Belfast Zoo.
Eight gentoo penguin chicks have hatched at Belfast Zoo.

Belfast Zoo has welcomed its first penguin chicks of the year.

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Excited keepers at the zoo announced the successful hatching of eight fuzzy chicks, who have not yet been named.

The babies are nestled in with their parents at the penguin enclosure, where visitors can see them enjoying their fish suppers.

“The penguin breeding season started way back in February. Around that time every year, we install nest rings for the penguins,” senior keeper Raymond Robinson said.

Eight gentoo penguin chicks have hatched at Belfast Zoo.
Eight gentoo penguin chicks have hatched at Belfast Zoo.

“The male gentoo penguins then set to work to fill the nests with pebbles and stones. The nests are so prized by females that often male penguins can obtain a mate by offering the female a nice pebble.”

Female penguins can lay up to two eggs which are then incubated by the male and female birds for approximately 30-40 days.

Mr Robinson explained that because of the recent spot of warm weather, zoo keepers installed umbrellas and sprinklers into the enclosure to protect the parents and eggs from the heat.

There are 17 species of penguin in the world, two of which – gentoo and rockhopper – can be found at Dublin Zoo.

Eight gentoo penguin chicks have hatched at Belfast Zoo.
Eight gentoo penguin chicks have hatched at Belfast Zoo.

As well as the Antarctic, gentoos can be found in warmer climates such as the Faulklands, South Georgia, Kerguelen, Marion, Macuarie and other remote islands.

Mr Robinson warned that all penguins face increasing threats from marine pollution, habitat loss, global warming and over-fishing.

Eight gentoo penguin chicks have hatched at Belfast Zoo.
Eight gentoo penguin chicks have hatched at Belfast Zoo.

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