[The Hunstanton SEA LIFE Sanctuary]

Sunny side up!

A pair of penguins at Hunstanton SEA LIFE Sanctuary has spurned a specially built nest box in favour of their own ´al fresco´ arrangements!

Now female penguin Charlie is happily brooding the Sanctuary´s first ever penguin egg…in an 18-inch deep depression in the tiny sandy beach in the Sanctuary´s spacious penguin enclosure.

She and her partner, Tommy, are often both to be found in their carefully excavated nest bowl, she brooding the egg and he standing guard.

And the doting couple have prompted another pair - Harriet and Harvey - to produce an egg of their own, this time using the proper facilities!

Yet another egg, found out in the middle of the enclosure, apparently rejected by whichever penguin produced it, is now in an artificial incubator.

″We´re all really excited, and keeping our fingers crossed that one or more eggs hatch out about 40 days from now” said curator Kieran Copeland.

″And whilst we´re sorry Charlie didn´t like the nest-box we built for her, there are distinct advantages to her having opted for an open air nest.

″It means she will be on view to visitors instead of hidden from them, and that visitors may get a glimpse of any eventual hatching which would normally take three months to move outside.″

Digging a nest hole or ″scrape″ is exactly what the rare Humboldt penguin does in the wild, in its native Peruvian or Chilean coastal habitat, but captive Humboldts generally use nest boxes.

″The species is seriously endangered in the wild, so any captive births are to be welcomed″ said Kieran.

As the hatchlings would emerge, hopefully, into mild spring weather, and be reared through the summer, survival prospects would be excellent.

A year old when they arrived at Hunstanton in the summer of 2002, Charlie and Tommy have never produced an egg before.

″Our early Easter eggs are fantastic news” said Kieran. ″We´ll all be holding our breath when the time comes for them to hatch″.

Press Release date: 22nd March 2005

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Hunstanton SEA LIFE Sanctuary / hunstanton@sealsanctuary.co.uk