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Will they be hearing the p-p-p-p-pitter patter of tiny feet at Hunstanton Sealife Sanctuary?

One of the penguins on its nest. Picture: Hunstanton sea Life Sanctuary

One of the penguins on its nest. Picture: Hunstanton sea Life Sanctuary

Archant

The pitter-patter of tiny penguin feet could be heard at Hunstanton this summer.

For the penguins at Hunsanton Sea Life Sanctuary have come over all broody.

Pairs Charlie and Jerome, and Millie and Burt are both brooding over a pair of eggs, with the youngest colony member Ellie – eight years old – and her partner Beau sitting on a single egg.

“We have had a quick look at the eggs using an egg candling lamp and being careful not to unsettle the adults, and they all seem to have viable yolks,” said Natalie Emmerson, senior aquarist at the centre.

“Millie and Burt, aged 20 and 21 respectively, are the most mature birds and probably the strongest contenders to rear a precious penguin chick, but we’re hopeful they will help give our younger families some tips.

The nesting pair Millie and Burt arrived at the sanctuary two years ago when their long term home on the Isle of Wight closed.

The pair have previously weaned chicks successfully in the pass, and so the team are feeling very hopeful of a repeat success.

Humboldt penguins are are 2ft tall and are native to the coasts of Chile and Peru.

Their numbers have declined rapidly as a result of habitat loss, industrial development, commercial guano removal and the so-called El Nino effect. 
This species of penguin has been classified as vulnerable since the year 2000.

It is thought there are fewer than 32,000 left in the wild. They are named after the cold water Humboldt current which they swim in. They nest on islands in burrows they dig themselves or in caves.

Incubation is 39-42 days, and that suggests that if Hunstanton Sea Life staff are to celebrate its first penguin hatchling this year they could be doing so as early as the end of April or very beginning of May.

Even then the joy would be tempered by a little anxiety, as first-time penguin parents often do not do a great job when it comes to rearing their young.

“They sometimes just don’t quite know what to do,” said aquarist Hollie Stephenson.

She added the team would therefore watch them like hawks, in case they fail to feed or look after their new arrivals as they should do.

“It’s not uncommon for first-time chicks to end up being hand-reared,” she added.

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