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Bristol Zoo Gardens is highlighting the plight of penguins as part of Penguin Awareness Day tomorrow (January 20).
The Zoo currently has 42 adult African penguins and eight penguin chicks which have hatched in the past four months, with more chicks anticipated soon.
Every one of them is important because in the wild their numbers have suffered a dramatic fall.
In 1900 there were an estimated two million African penguins but today there are fewer than 18,000 – a drop of more than 97 per cent.
The situation has led to African penguins being classified as Endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
A number of factors have contributed to the rapid decline in their numbers. Over-fishing has reduced their food supplies and oil pollution is a major threat.
Bristol Zoo is working with a local conservation and rehabilitation centre in South Africa which rescues orphaned penguin chicks, nurses them back to health and then reintroduces them back in to the wild.
Laura Hunn, bird keeper who cares for the penguins at Bristol Zoo, said: “It is the best feeling to walk around the penguin enclosure, hearing all of the chicks within their nesting burrows, knowing that we are contributing to the conservation of this incredibly important species”
“The chicks are fed regurgitated fish by their parents, until they emerge from the burrow at around 8 to 10 weeks old. By then, the chicks are full-size, but their appearance differs from the adults – they are referred to as ‘blues’ due to the colour of their feathers.”
“It’s an exciting time because our three oldest chicks have already fledged from their burrows and are exploring the pool and learning to feed themselves. So we are especially delighted to be celebrating Penguin Awareness Day.”
Bristol Zoos’ penguins include three-year-old Mimi who was hand-reared and has a special relationship with her keepers.
She is always the first to approach them whenever they step into the penguins’ enclosure.
Bristol Zoo Gardens is a conservation and education charity and relies on the generous support of the public not only to fund its important work in the Zoo, but also its vital conservation and research projects spanning five continents.
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