By Oliver Farrimond
PENGUINS at Edinburgh Zoo have p-p-p-picked up some new arrivals – 30 newly-hatched chicks from a record-setting clutch of 112 eggs.
It is the first time the zoo’s famous colony of gentoo penguins have laid more than 100 eggs, a symbolic figure in the centenary year of the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland.
There are more than 80 eggs still to be hatched, and the head keeper of penguins put the springtime clutch of hatchlings down to a rise in loved-up, first-time penguin couples.
It was the arrival of three king penguins from a 1914 expedition that gave the zoo its global reputation, as these were the first penguins ever seen outside their South Atlantic homeland.
Penguins remain one of the most popular attractions at the zoo, with the daily “penguin parade” continuing to attract large numbers of visitors to this day.
Roslin Talbot, head keeper of penguins at Edinburgh Zoo, said: “It’s hard to say exactly why the numbers are so great, but we have a lot of penguins nesting together for the first time this year.
“The majority of the chicks will hopefully remain at the zoo as we like to have lots of different ages, but our gentoo penguins are very much in-demand from European zoos so we’ll just have to see what happens.
“They’re all being fed really well by the adults, and hopefully In the next two to three months they’ll all be as fully independent as their parents. “
The mating season for Edinburgh Zoo’s gentoo penguins begins in March, offering visitors the chance to see their unique courtship displays – the female sits on a nesting ring while the males sift through the pebbles looking for the smoothest pebble to present to their chosen female.
The following four-six weeks sees males suffering from “pebble envy” and stealing the best looking pebbles from other nests to take to their own.
2009 marks the centenary of the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland, and the generous clutch of penguin hatchlings is just one event to mark the occasion.
The zoo’s polar bear, Mercedes, is to be moved to a new £300,000 enclosure in Highland Park, the largest of its kind in Europe with four acres of tundra-like land.