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Penguins pop into Oxfordshire care home for Christmas

Penguins Charlie and Pringle delighted care home residents at Spencer Court, run by the Orders of Saint John Care Trust, when they popped in to the Oxfordshire care home for a special Christmas visit last week.

OSJCT Spencer Court offers a programme of fun, creative and varied activities which is especially designed to benefit the physical and mental wellbeing of residents, especially those with dementia, and to support the best quality of life possible.  With activities as well as visits from families and loved ones heavily curtailed last Christmas due to Covid-19, the care home wanted to make Christmas extra special this year.

Dorte Chandler, Home Manager at OSJCT Spencer Court said: “Residents and colleagues at the home have experienced very challenging times since Covid-19 emerged, so we wanted to make this Christmas extra special for everyone.  What better way to do that than by welcoming these wonderful penguins right in to our care home.  They are amazing creatures, and we are all enjoying learning more about them together.”

Charlie, aged 24, and Pringle, aged nine, are regular visitors to care homes all around England.  They come from a breeding colony of 20 Humboldt penguins at Heythrop Zoo in Oxfordshire.  The visit to the care home is part of the zoo’s programme of animal enrichment activity, providing mental and physical stimulus for the penguins.  Enrichment is just as essential to the animal’s welfare as is proper nutrition and veterinary care.

A representative from Heythrop Zoo said: “These penguins are not only comfortable and familiar with travelling, but we believe they show positive behaviour signs when interacting with different people. Although they spend the majority of their time in the company of their own species, allowing them to exhibit normal behaviours including regular breeding and access to their swimming pool all day long, they are used to and therefore not stressed by the presence of human beings.”

The representative added: “It is the belief of Heythrop Zoo that by bringing unusual and undomesticated species to the attention of the general public – particularly when accompanied by educational talks – they raise community awareness that indirectly aids conservation.”

About the Humboldt penguin

Humboldt penguins range from Peru to Chile, extending down to the far tip of South America into the southern ocean. Their natural climate is mostly hot, but they get their name from the very cold Humboldt Current. Therefore they naturally adjust to all types of climate and, for the most part, are warm weather birds.

Humboldts are medium-sized birds and you can recognise them by the black band of feathers across their chest.  They also have splotchy pink patches on their face and feet, and the underside of their wings.  These are actually patches of bare skin which help keep them cool in warmer climates.

The idea that penguins need to be in water all day long is a fallacy. In the wild they only swim to catch fish.  Humboldts can reach speeds of 30 miles per hour underwater.

Although Humboldt Penguins are CITES 1 endangered species, they carry an article 10 licence that permits them to be used for commercial purposes.

Heythrop Zoo’s colony of Humboldt penguins live in a specially constructed enclosure that includes their own swimming pool, pebbled beach and house. They live in a breeding group and enjoy an active social existence when they are not out on assignments for the zoo.

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