TWO penguin chicks that were the first to be reared at a Bournemouth aquarium can now be seen by visitors.

The baby Humboldt penguins, which hatched during the Easter period, are part of a colony that arrived at the Oceanarium in 2015. A further six juvenile penguins were introduced in 2016, with the hope that once these birds reached sexual maturity they would pair up with some of the existing penguins for breeding.

During the 2019 breeding season, penguin couple Twiglet and Chile laid two eggs. As first time parents, keepers wanted to ensure the pair were able to juggle the pressures of parenting, and considered how other penguin pairs within the group could potentially help with sharing responsibilities. After proving they were naturals when given a dummy egg by penguin keepers, same sex couple Zorro and Diego fostered the second egg.

After 40 days, the tiny birds started ‘pipping’ out of their eggs and the chicks hatched just a day apart on April 12 and 13.

Weighing just 75g when born, the chicks were fed up to five times a day, and the Oceanarium says both sets of parents have been caring well for their new arrivals, with keepers regularly on hand to check the chicks’ development and assist if required.

Humboldt penguins are native to Chilean and Peruvian coasts and are currently listed as vulnerable on the IUCN red list, with the current population of 32,000 decreasing. The birds face numerous threats in the wild, such as climate change, pollution, hunting and human intrusion, says the Oceanarium, which supports projects that help protect the Humboldt penguins’ native habitats.

Oliver Buttling, group curator at the Oceanarium, said: “Penguin Beach Encounter was specifically designed to replicate the birds’ natural habitat with a deep pool, beach and rockery encompassing nest boxes. We were always hopeful for our group to breed when they reached maturity, and the team are delighted with the two new chicks. The successful breeding demonstrates that the penguins are happy and healthy with the care they receive and it will be amazing when our visitors are able to see them.”

The chicks had a short period behind-the-scenes in a ‘nursery’ display where they learnt to swim and hand feed from the penguin keepers.

The pair, at almost 12 weeks old, can now be seen exploring their new surroundings on Penguin Beach Encounter.