The baby jackass penguin has finally got a new name thanks to Gazette readers - and it has a romantic story behind it.

Zuzana Vinduskova and Andy Sparkes feeding the penguins at Combe Martin Wildlife Park.Zuzana Vinduskova and Andy Sparkes feeding the penguins at Combe Martin Wildlife Park.

A love story which spans from Ilfracombe to Afghanistan lies behind the name of a baby penguin at Combe Martin Wildlife and Dinosaur Park.

Back in May, the Gazette ran a competition to name the newest recruit at the park - a newly hatched jackass penguin - and one story captured the keepers’ hearts.

Former British ambassador Andy Sparkes, who retired from his diplomatic role last year and moved to Ilfracombe, contacted the Gazette with an idea after reading our article.

He wanted to name the penguin after his partner Zuzana Vinduskova, who was currently working in Afghanistan for NATO.

Vindy the penguin at  at Combe Martin Wildlife Park.Vindy the penguin at at Combe Martin Wildlife Park.

Mr Sparkes suggested the name Vindy - as the penguin is believed to be a boy - named after Zuzana’s surname.

He told the Gazette: “Zuzana is doing important work but she needs some cheering up after some rocket attacks.

“I told her about the baby penguin and she has, of course, fallen in love with it and looks forward to visiting it when she comes back to Ilfracombe in the summer.”

Mr Sparkes, former British ambassador for the Democratic Republic of Congo, Kosovo and Nepal, said another of his former roles was as deputy high commissioner in South Africa.

“During my time there I went several times to Boulders Beach near Capetown where the jackass penguins come from, and where it is even possible to swim with them,” he said.

“I told Zuzana about this and, as an animal lover and keen swimmer, going to Boulders Beach has ever since been high on her bucket list.”

The couple, who visited Vindy on Friday, has also offered to sponsor his upkeep.

The little penguin has grown considerably since his birth, and now weighs at least 1kg more than his mother.

Head keeper Leitza Gorman said the park had taken a DNA sample to establish the sex of the bird, but given his size she would be ‘very surprised’ if it wasn’t a boy.

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