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Posted: 1st July 2024

London Zoo penguin chicks take to water for first time
Adult Humboldt penguins can swim as fast as 30 miles per hour.
The chicks have been hand-reared by keepers.

Eleven Humboldt penguin chicks at London Zoo have had their first go at swimming.

The chicks, which hatched at the zoo in April, have had to wait until they lost their soft, downy feathers. These are replaced with waterproof black and white feathers when a chick is around six to 12 weeks old.

The youngsters were given access to a shallow training pool at the zoo to take the plunge into water for the first time.

Zookeeper Jessica Ray said: “The penguins all started by tentatively inspecting our small nursery pool: looking at the water, walking towards the edge, walking away, coming back.

“The water’s brand new to them, so we were expecting the chicks to be apprehensive. They seem to have gotten past that initial apprehension quickly and we’ve already got some very proficient swimmers in the group!”

Named McVitie, Swiftie, Gonzo, Pepe, Beaker, Coco, Bob, Thérèse, Randall, Hanbury and Medici, the chicks have been hand-reared by keepers at the zoo to ensure they are in optimal health.

The species is native to the coasts of Peru and Chile in South America, It is currently categorised as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, with numbers affected by pollution, overfishing, and disturbance from people harvesting their dropping to use as fertiliser.

As they get older, the chicks at the zoo will be moved into the main penguin pool to join their colony. Adult Humboldt penguins can reach swimming speeds of up to 30 miles per hour.

Ms Ray added: “These youngsters won’t be reaching 30 miles per hour speeds just yet, but we’re really pleased with the progress they’re making so far!” 
Image © Zoological Society of London

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