Chester Zoo names penguins Ryan and Rob after Wrexham FC owners

Two adorable Humboldt penguin chicks have taken their first swimming lessons at Chester Zoo.

Having hatched a little earlier in the year, the chicks have naturally shed their fuzzy grey baby feathers and embarked on a new adventure – swimming lessons with the zoo’s 45 strong adult colony.

In a bid to raise more awareness of the iconic birds, conservationists at the zoo have chosen to pay homage to one of their favourite local football teams and have named the duo after Wrexham AFC’s owners, Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney.

Humboldt penguins are native to the coasts of Chile and Peru in South America and are known for their charismatic personalities and unique black-and-white markings.

Zoe Sweetman, Team Manager of Penguins and Parrots at the zoo, said, “After hatching out of their eggs only a few months ago, these two youngsters have been closely cared for by their parents while snuggled up in their nests.

“But now they’ve shed their fluffy grey feathers and developed their multi-layered waterproof feathers. Watching as they tentatively make a splash is a real joy and within minutes they did what comes naturally to them, and now they’re zooming through the waters at high speed.

“Each year our team enjoys choosing a different naming theme for the chicks to help garner some much needed attention for the species. We’ve previously had brands of crisps, chocolate bars and types of fruit. This year, as one of our penguin keepers is huge fan of local football team, Wrexham AFC, we decided to do something a little different and name the two new male arrivals after Wrexham’s Hollywood owners Ryan (Reynolds) and Rob (McElhenney). They’re both so full of personality and charisma – so it seemed rather fitting. Their diving skills are already spot on.

“While it’s a lot of fun, there’s also a serious message behind it too. We hope we can help spread some much-needed awareness about the importance of wildlife conservation and inspire more people to take small, daily steps in playing an active role in protecting the future of species like the Humboldt penguin. Some very simple things we can all do are using less single-use plastics, eating sustainably caught fish, and reducing energy use – even if it’s just a little – that contributes to the warming of the seas.”

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) classifies the Humboldt penguin as “Vulnerable” on its Red List of Threatened Species. The key factors contributing to their decline include overfishing, habitat destruction and pollution, as well as climate change. Additionally, human encroachment on their nesting sites disrupts their colonies, putting further pressure on the species.

Chester Zoo plays a crucial role in the conservation and protection of endangered species like the Humboldt penguin through its breeding programmes with other major conservation zoos across the globe.

Facts about Humboldt penguins

  • The first of the tiny chicks to hatch was Ryan on 21 April and was shortly followed by Rob on 24 April 2023.
  • Humboldt penguins (Spheniscus humboldti) are a species of penguin found in South America, primarily along the coasts of Chile and Peru.
  • They are named after the Humboldt Current, a cold ocean current that flows northward along the west coast of South America, creating their natural habitat.
  • These penguins are medium-sized, reaching about 18 to 24 inches (46 to 61 centimetres) in height and weighing between 8 and 13 pounds (3.6 to 5.9 kilograms).
  • Humboldt penguins have a distinctive black-and-white colouration with a white belly and a black back and head, providing camouflage while swimming and protection from predators.
  • They are known for their excellent swimming and diving abilities, capable of reaching speeds of up to 20 miles per hour (32 kilometres per hour) in the water.
  • Humboldt penguins primarily feed on fish, squid, and small crustaceans, which they catch during their deep dives in search of food.
  • These penguins are social creatures, forming large colonies during the breeding season and often returning to the same nesting sites year after year.
  • Unlike many other penguin species, Humboldt penguins do not build elaborate nests but instead lay their eggs in simple burrows or rocky crevices.
  • They are excellent parents, with both the male and female taking turns to incubate the eggs and care for the chicks after hatching.
  • Humboldt penguins face several threats in the wild, including overfishing, habitat destruction, and climate change. As a result, they are classified as “Vulnerable” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
  • Conservation efforts, such as those undertaken by zoos like Chester Zoo, play a crucial role in safeguarding the future of Humboldt penguins and raising awareness about their conservation needs.

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