The first Humboldt penguin chicks of 2015 have emerged from their eggs at Chester Zoo. 

Weighing just 68g, baby chick Panay – named after an island in the Philippines – was the first of eight to hatch at the zoo.

Of the world’s 17 penguin species, Humboldt penguins are among the most at risk, being classed as vulnerable to extinction by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

Each year, zookeepers use a naming theme for newly born chicks, which has previously included British Olympic athletes, England football legends and chocolate bars.

The chicks have been named after the South East Asian development that visitors will enjoy later in the summer when the zoo unveils its new £40m Islands development.

Team manager Andy Woolham said: “Naming the penguins is a bit of fun for the team, it allows us to track the age of the birds easily because doing it by their spot pattern can be challenging.

“This year, we decided to celebrate the upcoming opening of our new Islands development and named the chicks in the order visitors will see each island. Although the penguins aren’t moving to Islands, given that it’s such a momentous time in the zoo’s history, we thought our new fluffy friends could help us mark the occasion.  

“We named the first chick Panay, which was quickly followed by Papua, Bali, Sumatra, Sulawesi, Sumba, Java and Tuma, but we’re still eagerly waiting for a few more eggs to hatch.”

Since the chicks hatched, zookeepers have been carefully observing their nutrition, weight and development in the nest.

Penguin keeper Sally Baross said: “The team closely monitors the chicks, weighing them daily and giving extra fish to the parents so they can feed their hungry new arrivals.  

“All the chicks are doing really well and have grown incredibly quickly. The first chick, Panay, was only 68g on hatching but has soon shot up to 450g so we’re really pleased.”

Each pair of the South American species, which comes from the coastal areas of Peru and Chile, lays two eggs and incubates them for 40 days. Both parents are then involved in rearing the young until they are fledged, before making their first splash in the main pool area with the rest of the colony.

Chester Zoo funds conservation initiatives in the penguins’ homeland, where they are threatened by overfishing, climate change and rising acidity levels in the ocean.

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