Thirty-three chicks hatched at Adventure Aquarium to support endangered species survival
On Endangered Species Day, the national observation of conservation efforts to protect endangered species and their habitats, Adventure Aquarium introduced two African penguin hatchlings, bolstering an already booming colony at Penguin Island, Aquarium officials announced today.
“We’re absolutely thrilled to introduce these two healthy African penguin chicks on Endangered Species Day,” said Michele Pagel, Curator of Birds & Mammals at Adventure Aquarium, who has worked with the African penguin population for 20 years. “African penguins are endangered, with less than 22,000 breeding pairs left in their native South Africa. Adventure Aquarium, along with other Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) institutions, participates in the Species Survival Plan (SSP) and we are all working to help fight the extinction of this incredible species so generations to come will be able to see, enjoy and learn from these animals.”
The Aquarium works with AZA’s African penguin SSP, a program that encourages zoos and aquariums to work together to help ensure the survival of the species through a scientifically-controlled breeding program. Since it began working with the program in 1998, the Aquarium has successfully bred and raised 33 African penguin chicks.
“With this breeding program, we are able to bolster the species population while showing kids and families these animals and educating them on how they can help them too,” said Pagel. “Making these connections during a visit to Adventure Aquarium and that developing into a lifelong compassion for these animals, the environment and our world’s oceans is what we hope for during every guest interaction.”
The proud penguin parents, Jack and Diane, welcomed two sets, also known as clutches, of chicks during the 2017-2018 breeding season. Their first clutch produced brothers Carson and Nick, which hatched on December 10 and 13, respectively, and were named after the Super Bowl Champion Philadelphia Eagles’ quarterbacks. The second clutch being announced today hatched in mid-April, with the arrival of chick one on April 16 at just 2.15 ounces (61 grams) and the second chick on April 20 at only 1.69 ounces (48 grams).
“Jack and Diane have done an excellent job parenting these chicks for the past five weeks,” said Pagel. “They are one of our most successful breeding pairs and continue to demonstrate that with the arrival of these new chicks.”
The young penguins are doing well and growing fast. When the chicks first hatched just weeks ago they weighed around two ounces each, the approximate weight and size of a golf ball, but have each grown to weigh roughly the same weight as two and a half footballs and nearly tripled in size. The chicks eat small whole fish just like the adult birds including silversides, smelt, anchovies, trout and capelin. Young penguins usually eat more than some of the adults at about 15-20 fish per day.
“Penguins grow extremely fast and in just a few months, these baby penguins will be the size of fully grown African penguins,” said Pagel. “At that point, they will start attending “penguin school” to help them transition into being members of our adult colony of birds.”
In order for the penguin chicks to learn how to acclimate with the colony at the Aquarium, staff must take over caring for them when they are able to eat small but whole fish and are more physically developed and mobile. The birds 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 group.
The pair of chicks will remain behind the scenes to allow them time to grow larger in size as well as develop their waterproof plumage before eventually being introduced to the colony in the Penguin Island exhibit later this summer. As the chicks mature, there will be some opportunity for Adventure Aquarium visitors to see them in the coming months. As the young birds progress and grow, staff may bring one of the chicks out from the Penguin House area following African penguin feeds, dependent on weather.
The chicks’ genders are currently unknown with blood tests to be conducted when the penguins are older. A naming contest will be held later this summer in which guests will have the opportunity to vote on names for these new additions. Details will be shared in the coming weeks. Guests and visitors are encouraged to follow the Aquarium’s social media accounts to stay up-to-date on animal birth announcements as well as events and happenings.
NOTE TO THE EDITOR
Downloadable images and video of the new African penguin chicks are available here.
Photo Credit: Adventure Aquarium/Christy Schultz; Video Credit: Adventure Aquarium/Deanna Sabec.