THERE'S fun for all the family to be had at Folly Farm Adventure Park and Zoo - and once it has found its feet, visitors will be able to coo over the attraction;'s latest arrival. By ANDY RUTHERFORD
DURING more than 25 years Folly Farm Adventure Park and Zoo, in Pembrokeshire, has developed from a dairy farm into a home for over 400 species of animals, and into a visitor attraction enjoyed by 400,000 people a year.
And in a few weeks' time, lucky summer visitors will get a chance to see its current newest arrival - though by the time the farm's first Humboldt penguin chick makes his or her first appearance, it is likely to have several brothers and sisters.
The farm's pack of 24 Humboldt penguins arrived in rural west Wales a year ago, and two of them, christened Donna and Diavlo, were among the first to pair off and build a nest together back in February.
Their fluffy grey offspring hatched last Tuesday (MAY 20)and will now spend the coming weeks being cared for by its parents, with the help of the farm's penguin keepers. It will then be enrolled into 'penguin school', where it will learn how to eat and fend for itself.
“We are so excited to have our first penguin chick at the park. We all feel like proud parents and are so happy for Donna and Diavlo," said penguin keeper Catrin Thomas.
"We haven’t named the chick yet as we do not know what sex it is, but once we do we will give it a suitable name. It may have to begin with ‘D’ though, to follow in its parents' footsteps.”
Fellow penguin keeper Caroline Davies said she hopes this is just the start of a "deluge" of Humblodt penguin chicks.
"We currently have 10 eggs being incubated by our penguin brood, so are anticipating the arrival of more any day now,” she said.
In the first few weeks of the chicks' lives the keepers will have to be very hands-on, to make sure the new parents and their offspring get off to the best possible start.
As first time parents, some of the penguins will need help in rearing their young, so the keepers will be on hand to give them some parenting tips and assist by hand-feeding the chicks during the first few months of their lives.
Zoo manager Tim Morphew said the new arrival and impending hatchings "demonstrates that we have successfully created a healthy breeding environment for our penguins that is as close as possible to their natural habitat."
"We are delighted that our first breeding season has been a success and we look forward to welcoming more little ones to our penguin crèche,” he said.
Folly Farm's Penguin Coast section opened last year, and has become an instant favourite with visitors. The two-acre state-of-the-art development currently houses the Humboldt penguins and boasts a beach area, a saltwater pool, and a play area with specialised plants and rocks.
There are plenty of other animals and attractions at Folly Farm too.
Its zoo area also features lions, giraffes - the only ones in Wales, zebras, camels, ostriches, tapirs, monkeys and meerkats, to name just a few, while its aviaries are home to exotic parrots, owls, cranes, herons, storks, kookaburras, turacos, and ibis.
There is also plenty to see at the farm's reptile centre, including snakes, tortoises and iguanas.
The Jolly Barn area includes sheep, poultry, horses, donkeys, goats, pigs and ferrets.
There is also the Follywood Country Park, where red deer, llamas and shire horses are among the featured animals, and this area can be toured in a land train.
Folly Farm also has Europe's largest indoor vintage funfair, with classic rides such as chair-o-planes, waltzers, dodgems, a ghost train and a cakewalk.
There is also an outdoor big wheel, go kart racing and an adventure playground.
Situated in Begelly, near Kilgetty, a short ride from Tenby and Saundersfoot, Folly Farm is easy to reach off the A477 and is just a short trip too from the main A40 route into west Wales.
Much more information, including the all-important opening times and ticket prices, can be found on the farm's website at www.folly-farm.co.uk
Alternatively, you can telephone 01834 812731for general inquiries and bookings, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org