Pick up a pen pal: Penguins make new friends during Christmas care home visit

Residents and staff at care homes have experienced very challenging times during the coronavirus pandemic. The manager at one in Oxfordshire wanted to make this Christmas extra special for everyone.

Two unlikely visitors brought some much-needed Christmas cheer to residents at a care home in Oxfordshire.

The Humboldt penguins - Charlie and Pringle - are no strangers to care homes, regularly visiting them across England as a form of therapy for residents.

Dorte Chandler, manager at 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 into our care home. They are amazing creatures, and we are all enjoying learning more about them together."

Images of their visit last week from Heythrop Zoo in Oxfordshire showed residents enjoying the unusual company - smiling and laughing - with some showing the penguins perched on their laps.

A spokesperson for 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... they are used to and therefore not stressed by the presence of human beings.

"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."

Humboldt penguins are native to Peru and Chile.