MARWELL Zoo’s new Humboldt penguin chicks have been given a clean bill of health as they embark on the road to adulthood.

The examinations, a routine part of the care chicks receive at the zoo, were carried out to ensure they are developing normally and are not suffering from any health issues.

Staff always strive to ensure the inspections are conducted before chicks leave the nest.

Marwell’s acting veterinary services manager, Dr Sarah Jayne Smith, said: "I listen to their heart and their respiratory system with a stethoscope - birds have a very complicated but interesting respiratory system that’s different to mammals; they have lungs and air sacs.

Daily Echo: Marwell Zoo's new Humboldt penguin chicks have been given a clean bill of health.Marwell Zoo's new Humboldt penguin chicks have been given a clean bill of health.

“I check the colour inside their mouths as that gives me an indication of how efficiently their heart and respiratory system are working.

“I feel their stomach to make sure their organs feel normal and check the condition of their feathers and feet before the keepers put them on the scales to find out how much they weigh.

“I also take a small blood sample from a vein in the chick’s foot.

"I send this away to find out if our chicks are boys or girls – it can be very hard to tell in penguins, even when they are adults.

“Finally we inject a small microchip between the chick’s shoulder blades, just like your vet would for your cat or dog. The microchip contains a unique number which helps us identify the penguin as it grows up.”

Daily Echo:

The chicks have joined the rest of the colony by the penguin pool and spend less time in their burrows, giving visitors a far greater chance of spotting them.

Humbolt penguins are listed as vulnerable to extinction on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s red list of threatened species.

As reported in the Daily Echo, the chicks, which have all been named after nuts, arrived within a few days of each other in April and May.

The zoo is operated by Marwell Wildlife, which has just received the Queen's Award for Enterprise: Sustainable Development.

Visitors are able to get close to members of the animal kingdom, from Amur tigers to towering giraffes.

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