Photo gallery: Shy little chick cracks Banham Zoo milestone

The 100th African penguin, front left, to hatch at Banham Zoo, now ten-weeks-old, with her fellow penguins in their enclosure. Picture: Denise Bradley The 100th African penguin, front left, to hatch at Banham Zoo, now ten-weeks-old, with her fellow penguins in their enclosure. Picture: Denise Bradley

Saturday, July 5, 2014
1:36 PM

It is perhaps best associated with the icy cold temperatures of the Antarctic rather than Norfolk on one of the hottest days of the year.

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But this young penguin is learning to adapt to the warmer climes of the county after becoming the 100th African black-footed penguin to be hatched at Banham Zoo.

The female, yet to be named, recently fledged from its nest to join the rest of its colony and is now on view to visitors to the zoo’s penguin enclosure near Attleborough.

It was a special moment for the animal’s keepers, not least because African penguins have been classified as an endangered species by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

Mike Woolham, head of animal management at Banham Zoo, said: “Our 99th chick was born last year and we weren’t sure if we were going to get the 100th shortly afterwards.

“We were kept waiting another four months but I think the penguin keepers were pretty chuffed. It’s a bit of a milestone because they are an endangered species, so you do feel you are doing your bit for conservation.”

Because penguins are monomorphic, meaning they all look the same, Banham Zoo staff had a job to discover the newly-hatched chick’s gender. To do so they had to send a few feathers to a specialist laboratory for examination.

Mr Woolham said the shy chick, born on April 10, has been “a bit stand-offish” with humans so far – but said it was much better the animal is raised by its parents than people.

“There is no real value in domesticating any of our birds unless we absolutely have to because they lose their true nature,” he said.

“We want them to be parent-reared – because it’s an awful lot of work to hand-rear them as much as anything, but also because the animal can end up being poorly socialised and perhaps doesn’t realise it’s a penguin.”

Mr Woolham said that although penguins are often associated with the cold, they are in fact good at adapting to a wide range of temperatures.

“They require no additional heat, even in the depths of winter. Equally, they can manage high temperatures.”

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