There is optimism at Hunstanton Sea Life Sanctuary that there will soon be the waddle of tiny feet being heard in the penguin enclosure.
This year Humboldt penguin 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 one egg.
Senior aquarists Natalie Emmerson said; “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.
“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 has previously weaned chicks successfully and so the team are feeling very hopeful.
The penguin is named after the cold water current it swims in, which is itself named after Alexander von Humboldt, an explorer.
Humboldt penguins are native to the coasts of Chile and Peru, where their numbers have declined rapidly as a result of habitat loss, industrial development, commercial guano removal and the el Nino effect.
This species of penguin has been classified as vulnerable since 2000 and it is thought there are fewer than 32,000 left in the wild.
Incubation is 39-42 days, and that suggests that if 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.
“They sometimes just don’t quite know what to do,” said aquarist Hollie Stephenson, the team would therefore watch them like hawks, lest they fail to feed or tend their offspring as they should.
“It’s not uncommon for first-time chicks to end up being hand-reared,” she added.
This has been a busy time for the Sea Life Sanctuary at Hunstanton. At the end of last month, the new Rainforest Ranger area opened featuring creatures from ranforests all over the world for visitors both young and old to get up close and personal with.