Two small bundles of fluff have hatched at Port Macquarie's Billabong Zoo.
The as-yet unnamed fairy penguins, the smallest species of penguin in the world, hatched on August 14 and have emerged from their zoo burrows.
The new hatchlings share their zoo enclosure with parents, Private and Kowalski, as well as another breeding pair, Skipper and Mumble.
Zookeeper Kyle Cordwell said the chicks were born weighing around 50 grams each and will gain another 250 grams as they mature into adults.
"They are pretty feisty, pretty inquisitive and at the moment they are starting to leave the burrows. Right now they have a lot of fluff and aren't completely waterproof so they won't start to swim until they have their full feathers," Mr Cordwell said.
"Mum and dad are eating about 15 to 20 pilchards a feed, two times a day. Those pilchards are then regurgitated to the chicks when they feed.
"We knew our adult penguins were coming into breeding this year and we allowed them to do that. They did breed quite early this year because usually they would lay eggs around June, but we had eggs laid in May.
"It was a surprise to everyone that they did hatch out because last year we did have a bit of difficulty in hatching. The year before that we did have four hatch out, so there's been mixed success.
"Most pairs in the wild would hatch one to two chicks at a time. However the weaker chick would not tend to survive due to being a couple of days younger and the older chick pushing it out of the nest."
The genders of both new penguins are yet to be determined and previous penguins have been sent to other zoos around Australia, Mr Cordwell said.
"We will have to send a sample of their feathers to a laboratory for DNA testing," he said.
"We have a specific sized enclosure and unfortunately having more penguins would mean that they would fight and carry on.
"There will be a plan on where they will go once we know they survive past into feeding themselves. They are very small birds and things can go wrong still at this stage."
Little penguins are commonly found on the southern coastlines of Australia and New Zealand, said Mr Cordwell. They are listed as a least concern conservation status, although populations are in decline.
"Little penguins are in decline. Years ago you used to be able to see quite a few penguins colonies up and down the coast of NSW," he said.
"A lot of those smaller colonies have been decimated by foxes, dune eroded and housing pressure. They have been displaced by human activities and housing development.
"You used to find them all the way up the coast to Coffs Harbour, but typically you don't see them now past Port Stevens. It's important these guys are an insurance populations just like what's happening with koalas.
"It's pretty important to be able to breed them in captivity because their species is in decline in the wild. In years to come we don't know what will happen to those wild populations."
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