ARRIVAL OF PENGUIN CHICKS GIVE TWO FIRST-TIME MOMS AN EXTRA SPECIAL MOTHER’S DAY

New moms, African penguin Mouse and little blue penguin Sapphire, welcome pink bundles of hatchling joy!

Aquarium to hold naming contest for little blue chick, beginning this weekend!

Adventure Aquarium officially announced the hatching of two female penguin chicks, one from each penguin species exhibited at the Aquarium, earlier today.  The Aquarium’s 27th African penguin chick, a girl named Lemmie, and the second little blue chick ever to hatch at the Aquarium, also a female and yet to be named, are doing well and growing fast.

Lemmie, named by Aquarium staff, hatched behind the scenes of the Penguin Island exhibit to first-time parents, Mouse and Cliff, on March 29, 2017.  The little blue chick hatched on Earth Day, April 22, to Sapphire and Bloke, first-time parents, in a nesting box on the Little Blue Beach exhibit at the Aquarium. 

Guests will have the opportunity to vote on the little blue chick’s name beginning this Mother’s Day weekend.  Kirra, an Australian Aboriginal name meaning "leaf"; also means “to live”; Talia, an Australian Aboriginal name meaning "near water"; and Terra, the Latin name for "Earth".  Starting on Saturday, May 13, visitors can vote for their favorite name option using spare change at a voting station located in the Main Lobby. All donations will benefit little blue penguins in the wild and the Manly little penguin colony restoration through the Foundation for National Parks & Wildlife.  The winning name will be revealed next month.

“Our team is thrilled to have two species of penguins hatch within just weeks of each other,” said Michele Pagel, Curator of Birds and Mammals at Adventure Aquarium.  “It’s been really fun watching each chick grow and develop.” 

The hatching of this African penguin chick is extra special as her parents, Cliff and Mouse, have been attempting to successfully breed for some time.  “It’s a victory for the entire team as well as mom and dad,” said Pagel.   Cliff and Mouse are one of the senior pairs in the Aquarium’s colony and have been highly recommended to breed by the Association of Zoos and Aquarium’s (AZA’s) Species Survival Plan (SSP).  AZA’s SSP is a program that encourages zoos and aquariums to work in concert to help ensure the survival of penguin species through a scientifically-controlled breeding program.

“We were also fortunate to have our second little blue hatch just a few weeks later,” said Pagel.  “Both sets of parents have been very attentive to their little girls.  From day one, these moms and dads have been amazing.” 

Both of the penguins’ genders were determined during early gender tests using DNA collected from inside the egg shell which resulted in female.  Blood tests will be conducted to confirm these results when the penguins are older.

Penguin chicks are very reliant on their parents when they first hatch.  Their eyes are closed, and their bodies are developing muscles that will eventually allow them to hold their head up and waddle. They also grow very quickly and, in just over a month, Lemmie has grown from just 64 grams (2.26 ounces, or almost the weight of a “C” size battery) to 2 kilograms (4 pounds, 4 ounces).  The little blue hatchling has grown from just 36 grams (1.27 ounces, or the weight of a 60 watt lightbulb) to 410 grams (14.5 ounces). 

Just like the adult birds, penguin chicks eat about 25 to 30 small whole fish each day, including silversides, smelt, anchovies, trout and capelin. Lemmie and the little blue chick’s care were transferred from parents to AAQ keepers on Wednesday, May 10, 2017 at which point they were able to eat small but whole fish and were more physically developed and mobile.

“Young penguins need to learn how to eat from human hands, associate fish with the feed bucket and learn to be social with the keepers, which are all important steps to becoming part of the colony,” said Pagel. “Both chicks have transitioned beautifully into our care, quickly taking to keepers as their new caregivers.  We look forward to introducing them to our guests in the near future.”

Both chicks will remain behind the scenes to allow them time to develop waterproof plumage before being introduced to their respective colonies.

With the addition of Lemmie, the African penguin colony now consists of 35 birds, the largest colony in Adventure Aquarium history.  The colony is currently behind the scenes as renovations to the Penguin Island exhibit take place through mid-June.   

The little blue penguin colony, which arrived at the Aquarium in December 2015, now consists of 12 penguins, six males and six females.  The chick will also remain behind the scenes to develop waterproof plumage and grow larger in size before being reintroduced to the colony on exhibit at Little Blue Beach.

Guests and visitors are encouraged to follow the Aquarium’s social media accounts to stay up to date on animal births, announcements and events.