BIRD keepers at Dudley Zoo have a very special Christmas task to carry out – rearing two rare Humboldt penguin chicks after they were abandoned by their mother when their nest flooded.
The eight-week-old babies hatched outdoors in the walkthrough Penguin Bay exhibit during a rainstorm and when an inch of water fell in just 30 minutes, it alarmed the mother bird so much she deserted her chicks.
Team leader birds section, Kellie Piper, said: “It’s the wrong time of year for penguins to breed and the chicks were getting very wet and cold and would not have survived if we didn’t intervene.”
The babies, who have been temporarily named Holly and Ivy by staff until their sexes are identified, were taken indoors and put beneath a heat lamp in the aviaries, where they are being cared for by keepers.
Kellie added: “We are feeding them three times a day.
“We started them off on a mixture of blended sprats, sea salt and water which we administered using a syringe and now they are taking tiny chunks of fish, which is what they’ll be eating on Christmas Day.”
The Castle Hill attraction is home to the UK’s largest parent-reared colony with more than 70 of the endangered birds roaming freely in a walk-through enclosure.
The youngsters will be reunited with the rest of the colony when they have developed their juvenile plumage.