As schools across the UK push towards the long summer break, one unique youngster at Blackpool Zoo is gearing up for some very important lessons in life – first on the list…..learning to be a penguin!
Bolstered by a super brain food diet of fishy milkshakes, Britain’s only Magellanic penguin chick is being hand-reared by specialist bird keepers who must teach it how to be a penguin.
This involves giving the chick a mirror so it can see its own reflection, regular swimming lessons in a pool in the Bird Nursery and visits to see the other penguins in the Active Oceans Arena.
Keepers took the decision to remove the egg from the parents as it had been laid in an area that meant it was susceptible to wild predators.
The colony of Magellanic penguins arrived at Blackpool Zoo in 2009 and since then the team has successfully hand reared and reintroduced several chicks and celebrated multiple parent-reared youngsters.
Johnpaul Houston, Head of Birds at Blackpool Zoo, said: “We were delighted when Margo hatched at the end of March and we have been working round the clock to ensure it stays fit and healthy.
“We don’t know the sex of the chick yet and this is determined through DNA testing, but we have decided to call it Margo after a close personal friend of mine who shares its birthday!
“As birds imprint on the first thing they see it is vital that we ensure that Margo understands what species he or she is! As well as using the mirror to show Margo his or her reflection we will be introducing it to last year’s hand-rearing graduates Gandalf and Pippin!
“We are really pleased with the progress we have made and are sure that Margo will win the hearts of visitors over the summer months!”
Magellanic penguins have short, wedge shaped tails and long narrow wings that they use like paddles when they are swimming. They can reach speeds in excess of 15mph in the water.
Blackpool Zoo is the only zoo in the country that houses this species of penguin.
More information about Blackpool Zoo
Blackpool Zoo announced record figures for the fifth consecutive year in 2013 as it continued with investment in facilities and attractions, introduces new species and enjoys success in international breeding programmes for endangered animals.
Visitor numbers were up 10 per cent, school visits seven per cent, internet bookings saw an 55 per cent increase, membership sales rose by 10 per cent, which all led to a 12 per cent rise in revenue.
Blackpool Zoo is owned by Parques Reunidos, the second largest European leisure parks operator and a leading world-wide player. The zoo is home to over 1,500 mammals, birds, reptiles and invertebrates set amidst thirty-two acres of mature woodland and lakes.
The zoo’s signature animals include elephants, giraffes, big cats, gorillas, orang-utans, sea lions, primates, zebras and kangaroos. It is open every day of the year, apart from Christmas Day, from 10am.