As a certain Wayne Rooney prepares to kick off England’s World Cup campaign in Brazil, his feathered namesake at Chester Zoo has joined the penguin class of 2014 and started crèche.
Each year keepers at the zoo name their new charges after a particular theme. In 2013 their clutch got their names from characters from the hit TV show Dr Who and this time around they’ve been named after English World Cup stars past and present.
Rooney the penguin, who hatched in spring, has moved into a nursery at the zoo to learn some penguin basics – along with classmates Gerrard, Banks and Moore.
And just as school children have to learn their ABCs, the zoo’s youngsters will be taught how to swim, hunt and feed in water.
Penguin team manager Andy Woolham said: “For our penguin chicks this is a learning process of two halves. We kick off their education with lessons in and around our shallow nursery pool where the main goal is to build up their confidence. Then, when we’re happy they can take fish from our keepers and no longer need to rely on regurgitated food from mum and dad, they graduate to our main pool. Here they continue the learning process by following the lead of the adults in the colony.”
The penguins are an endangered South American species, which come from the coastal areas of Peru and Chile. The new arrivals mean the zoo now has a colony of 42.
Mr Woolham added: “Rooney is so far showing a great appetite for learning. When the time comes we hope he will dive with great elegance.
“Gerrard is still with mum at the moment but we’re confident he’ll soon be showing real promise and could end up top of our mini-league! Hopefully the great form that our penguin chicks are starting to show will be matched by their namesakes out in Brazil.”
Chester Zoo funds conservation initiatives in the penguins’ homeland to help them in their natural habitat, where they are faced with many pressures including over fishing of their food and habitat loss.