Birth of African Penguin Chick

Adventure Aquarium officially announced the hatching of its newest African penguin named “Topper” to parents Minnie and Kamikaze earlier today. Topper was given that name in honor of its birthday on December 24, 2015 and named after the penguin featured in the movie Santa Claus is Coming to Town.

This is the ninth hatchling for proud mom and dad, Minnie and Kamikaze, who have been at the Aquarium since 1998 and are one of the facility’s original pairs.  The Aquarium continues to participate in the Association of Zoos and Aquarium’s (AZA’s) African penguin Species Survival Plan (SSP), a program that encourages zoos and aquariums to work in concert to help ensure the survival of African penguins through a scientifically-controlled breeding program. Since it began working with the program in 1998, the Aquarium has successfully bred and raised 20 African penguin chicks.

Topper, whose gender is unknown, is doing well and growing fast. When the chick first hatched approximately seven weeks ago, it weighed less than two ounces, the approximate weight and size of a golf ball, but has grown to weigh over five pounds.  At just one month old, the new addition was actually heavier in weight than the largest Little Blue penguin at the Aquarium.

“We’re thrilled to report that this African penguin chick is very strong,” said Michele Pagel, Curator, Birds & Mammals, who has overseen the African penguin population since 1998.  “It is gaining weight by leaps and bounds, vocalizing and has a hearty appetite and is very active.”

Topper is now eating whole fish just like the adult birds including silversides, smelt, anchovies, trout and capelin. The young penguin usually eats more than some of the adults at about 15-20 fish per day. Topper’s care was transferred from its parents to AAQ keepers on January 25 at which point it was able to eat small but whole fish and was standing up on its own. “It is really important for our staff to take over care so the penguin chick can learn how to be a penguin here at the Aquarium,” said Pagel. “Learning how to eat from human hands, associate fish with the feed bucket and learn to be social with the keepers are all important steps to becoming part of the colony.”

Much like human newborn babies, when chicks are first hatched, they are very dependent on their parents. Their eyes are closed, and their bodies are developing muscles that will eventually allow them to hold their head up and walk (or waddle). The only difference is that penguin growth happens in warp-speed. In fact, in a year, Topper will be the size of a fully grown African Penguin.

“Adventure Aquarium visitors will be able to start seeing the adorable Topper up close and in person this month following the African penguin feeds,” said Pagel.  “Once it has grown large enough to assimilate with the other residents of the Aquarium’s Penguin Island exhibit, the chick will join the rest of the colony on exhibit.”

Guests are encouraged to follow AAQ on Facebook and Twitter for updates on this adorable new addition to the Adventure Aquarium family and stay up-to-date on the latest Aquarium happenings.


Adventure Aquarium is just minutes from downtown Philadelphia on the Camden Waterfront and features one-of-a-kind exhibits with more than 8,500 aquatic species throughout two million gallons of water.  The Aquarium is home to the largest collection of sharks on the East Coast, including the only Great Hammerhead Shark on exhibit in the United States, the only aquarium in the world to exhibit hippos and one of only six facilities in the US to have Little Blue Penguins as permanent residentsAdventure Aquarium is an accredited member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), and is held to the absolute highest standards in animal care and exhibition. Open 365 days a year, from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.  For more information, visit