The Royal Zoological Society of Scotland's Edinburgh Zoo has announced this year’s first Northern rockhopper penguin chicks hatched just days ago.
Although the zoo is currently closed to the public, the tiny chicks can be seen on the wildlife conservation charity’s live webcams, where it is hoped more will appear over the coming weeks.
Dawn Nicoll, senior penguin keeper, said, “Northern rockhopper penguins are an endangered species so it is really exciting to welcome new chicks to the colony. The first 30 days are critical for their development, so we’ll keeping a close eye on them at this sensitive time.
“We counted 14 eggs in total and four chicks have hatched so far, so fingers crossed there’ll be more good news to come. Last year we welcomed four youngsters which was the most successful breeding season we’ve had for the species at the zoo for many years.
"It has been amazing to see how many people have tuned into the webcams so far and fantastic for them to be able to see the chicks as they grow, even if they can’t yet visit in person.
“Being closed means we have no visitor income and it costs £55,000 to feed our animals each month. People can help look after our newly hatched penguins and protect their cousins in the wild by donating on our website.”
As well as being part of the European breeding programme for Northern rockhopper penguins, RZSS has worked to help safeguard the species in the wild for many years, including supporting annual surveys and public engagement in the Tristan de Cunha archipelago.
Having helped to publish the first global action plan for Northern rockhoppers in 2017, RZSS is currently working on a genetic analysis of the species to understand how connected populations are across the distant island groups that they live on.
Interested webcam watchers can find out more about this work and rockhopper penguins in the new #RZSSGoesWild video series.