The chick – whose gender and name are still to be determined – was born after the new male arrival at the zoo, Sigsby (6) got together with Twinny (19).
The pair initially proved to be good parents, taking it in turns to sit on the egg. But as time went on, the keepers noticed that Sigsby wasn’t taking his turns, and leaving Twinny to do all the sitting. Eventually, this became too much for Twinny, and the egg was left on its own.
At that point, head zookeeper John Pickering took the egg home and placed it in an incubator.
In due course, the egg hatched at home, though John had to help the chick break out of the egg, after it got stuck in the shell. Ever since then, John has hand reared the chick, with feeds of a blend of fish and saltwater four times a day, with the last daily feed sometimes at midnight. He has been feeding the chick from a syringe, stimulating the feeding response of the chick by rubbing its beak. He has been greatly helped in this by his wife Tracey, who has also been feeding the new arrival.
After 30 days, the chick moved on to small fish.
This is the first time in 18 years that John has hand reared a chick – the last one was Toby in 2003!
John Pickering explained: “This whole process has been a bit of a miracle; I am so glad we had the foresight to put the egg in the incubator. It was a challenge right from the start to help the chick, but I wasn’t going to give up”!
The new chick is the first grandchild of Rosie (31), believed to be the oldest Humboldt penguin in the world.
The chick is now 12 weeks old. Its gender cannot be determined until it has lost its remaining fluffy feathers on its head – male penguins have rounder heads than females. It also has to lose the fluffy feathers on its back, as it cannot be waterproof with them.
After this has happened, the new chick will be introduced into the penguin enclosure, and the public and media will be invited to visit. Further details of the introduction will be announced in due course.
Humboldt penguins are classed as vulnerable to extinction, so the news of the new arrival has been greeted with particular enthusiasm.
Follow the progress of the chick – and the zoo in general – on social media on Facebook and Instagram, and online at www.sewerbyhall.co.uk