The class of 2015: ‘Penguin school’ about to start for the Folly Farm five – Cogsworth, Bagheera, Abu, Scuttle and Thumper.
The first two penguin chicks at Folly Farm have fledged from the nest by their parents – and have been taken into a special penguin nursery enclosure where they will learn key penguin survival skills.
Eventually all five chicks at the Pembrokeshire zoo will spend a few weeks in ‘Penguin nursery’ and then be reintroduced into the penguin community when they around four or five months old.
The penguin chicks range in age from seven to eight weeks old. When they get to between eight and 12 weeks of age, their parents will not allow them back into the nest and leave them to fend for themselves.
In the wild, half of all penguin chicks won’t survive by themselves. As they are an endangered species, Folly Farm is one of many zoos that takes the young penguins into a nursery enclosure until their waterproof feathers are fully grown, and they have learned to eat independently.
Catrin Thomas, along with her colleague Caroline Davies, has been a penguin keeper here at Folly Farm since the penguins arrived in May 2013.
In the nursery, they will follow a weaning process that will enable them to eat independently. They will be fed three times a day initially, with this slowly being cut down to two feeds as their skills develop.
The penguin chicks will also become accustomed to the water in a custom-built splash pool, as their waterproof feathers grow and they gain confidence in swimming.
The penguins even have their own version of a graduation ceremony from penguin school, where they all slowly walk together from the edge of the enclosure into the pool, to be met by the other 30 penguins in the community.
We currently has 35 penguins, including the five new chicks. The eldest penguin, at 22 years of age, is Holly, closely followed by her partner of some 20 years, Harry. Penguin life expectancy is around 22 in the wild and 30 in captivity.
The penguin nursery is situated next to Folly Farm’s penguin enclosure, Penguin Coast. Members of the public can view the penguin chicks while they are in the nursery, although they spend a lot of time in their nest, so are not always visible.