Gallery: penguins pop into Oxfordshire care home for Christmas visit

Team wanted to make this Christmas ‘extra special’ for residents

Care home residents have had a particularly grim time during the pandemic, but some much-needed Christmas cheer was brought to one group of pensioners – in the form of penguins.

Charlie and Pringle, two Humboldt penguins, delighted residents at Spencer Court in Oxfordshire as part of a programme of activities designed to benefit the physical and mental wellbeing of residents.

As all festive activities were cancelled due to Covid, the care home team wanted to make this Christmas “extra special for everyone”, said home manager Dorte Chandler.

Charlie, aged 24, and Pringle, aged nine, are regular visitors to care homes all around England, according to The Orders of St John Care Trust. Their visits form part of a programme of animal enrichment led by Heythrop Zoological Gardens, a private zoo and animal training centre near Chipping Norton, Oxfordshire.

“These penguins are not only comfortable and familiar with travelling, but we believe they show positive behaviour signs when interacting with different people,” said a zoo representative.

“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,” the zoo’s statement added.

Heythrop has a breeding group of Humboldt penguins, who originally hail from Peru and Chile. The birds are medium-sized and recognised by the black band of feathers across their chests. According to the BBC, Humboldt penguins can live up to two decades in the wild and are classed as “vulnerable to extinction”.

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