FATHER Christmas has been spotted meeting the residents of West Midland Safari Park ahead of their Christmas event, which starts this weekend.

On selected dates starting November 16, the park will be hosting its annual Santa Safari event, where guests can meet the big man himself and his jolly elf helpers.

In preparation, Santa has been busy meeting his new neighbours - including some baby animals who will be celebrating their first Christmas at the park.

Five-month-old penguin chicks Hickory, Hotdog and Hummus live on the Discovery Trail, which will undergo a complete makeover during the Christmas period to be transformed into a winter wonderland.

Head of the Discovery Trail Amy Sewell said: "This Christmas is very exciting for our colony of Humboldt penguins at West Midland Safari Park as it will be three of our penguins’ first ever Christmas.

"Hotdog, Hickory and Hummus have already been treated with a special visit from Santa and it looks like all three girls will be on his nice list, as they are very important animals.

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"Humboldt penguins are endangered in the wild so keepers at West Midland Safari Park were over the moon when the three chicks hatched."

Santa treated the penguins to their favourite fishy snacks and left the keepers with some early Christmas presents for the chicks to play with.

Amy added: "Our guests might be lucky enough to see them playing in their pool on their way to Santa’s grotto.”

Santa's helpers have been busy setting up the grotto, planting over 350 Christmas trees and putting up lights, baubles and layers of false snow.

Families can pay to visit the grotto, where children will receive a memento of their day by having a picture of themselves with Santa to take home and choose a present from the elves' workshop.

Also included in the package is a visit to Mrs Claus’ kitchen, where children will receive a drink and cookie, and adults are treated to a mulled wine and mince pie.

The penguins can be seen in Penguin Cove, which is included in the Santa Safari admission fee.

Entry costs £25 for adults, £20 for children, £9 for children under the age of three and £23 for concessions. Admission includes a winter Free Return Ticket and savings of up to 20 per cent can be made by booking in advance online.