It’s always a proud moment for a zoo when a new animal is born, but it’s even better news when it’s an endangered species. Each new birth is a sign of hope for that species’ recovery.
Now, the Maryland Zoo is celebrating the recent births of three African penguin chicks — a species that is considered critically endangered.
The penguin breeding season at the zoo began mid-August, timed to match the Spring breeding season in the penguins’ native South Africa.
So far, three chicks have hatched this season.
“It’s amazing to me that we are in our 53rd year working with African penguins,” Jen Kottyan, the zoo’s avian collection and conservation manager, said in a press release. “We are always excited to watch the colony grow each year.”
The Maryland Zoo, in Baltimore, is doing important work helping to conserve the African penguin, which is listed as an “extremely endangered” species. They have seen a rapid decline in numbers, including a 99.2% decline in the past 100 years.
The zoo is the largest colony of African penguins in North America with 104 penguins, and is doing their part to repopulate the species: they hope that about 10 new chicks will be hatched this season.
The chicks hatch 38-42 days after the eggs are laid. “With African penguins, both the male and the female take turns incubating the eggs,” Kottyan said. “Once the eggs hatch, parents take turns caring for their offspring; they each protect, feed, and keep the chick warm for 2-3 days and then switch off.”
The hatchlings then stay with their parents for three weeks and are fed regurgitated fish, before beginning a routine of being fed by the zoo staff.
The chicks grow up fast, going from the size of a palm to their full size of six pounds in just three months, the zoo writes.
We can’t wait to see these precious penguins grow up. Hopefully one day this beautiful species makes it off the endangered list.
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