On June 8th the Santa Barbara Zoo welcomed its first ever Humboldt penguin chick. In this series of pictures you can watch the chick over the course of its first few weeks as veterinarians inspect it and then drop it in the bowl to be weighed, kind of like a safety seat for penguin chicks.
Santa Barbara, CA, June 23, 2009 – The first Humboldt penguin ever born at the Santa Barbara
Zoo was hatched on Monday, June 8 and is now being fostered-reared on exhibit at the Crawford
Family Penguin House. Humboldt penguins are threatened in their native habit along the Pacific
Coast of South America, from Peru to Chile. The two-week old chick can sometimes be spotted
in its nesting burrow with one of its foster parents.
Only two of the Zoo’s 15 adult Humboldt penguins have a recommendation to breed
under the Species Survival Plan of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), which
oversees management of the species. The pair arrived at the Zoo last year Woodland Park Zoo in
“They had laid fertile eggs in the past, but had never been successful in rearing their
young,” says Sheri Horiszny, Director of Animal Programs. “As a result, we researched the
histories of all of our penguins to find one with parenting success. We have a male that had
successfully fostered eggs before, and we placed the egg with him and his partner, also a male.
The foster pair were dedicated incubators, and now are feeding the chick well.”
The chick weighed 90 grams when it was weighed the day after hatch, and weighed 501
grams on June 18. [do we have a new weight? Do we know its sex?]
“We will take over care of the chick when it is around four to six weeks old, when it
would naturally begin to gain independence and fledge in the wild,” added Horiszny.
Male-bonded penguin couples have been documented in Zoos in Japan, Germany and the
United States. In 2004, a male pair of chinstrap penguins in the Central Park Zoo in New York
City partnered and successfully hatched a female chick from an egg, which was the basis for the
children’s picture book And Tango Makes Three.
About Humboldt Penguins
The Crawford Family Penguin House offers both above-ground and underwater viewing
of these active birds. The exhibit, featuring a 5,670 cubic foot pond, opened in June 2006. There
are a total of 15 adults birds on view, but only one pair has been recommended for breeding by
This species of penguins like it “Chile, not chilly” as they hail from coastal desert
regions along the Pacific Coast of South America from Peru to Chile. They are highly threatened
in their native regions and the Santa Barbara Zoo has made a financial commitment to assist
conservation efforts by Acorema in Peru.
This species is considered threatened by the World Conservation Union, an international
body of thousands of scientists who assess the status of the world’s plants and animals. The total
world population of Humboldt penguins is around 12,000 breeding pairs and is currently in
serious decline. The causes include over-fishing of their food supply, entanglement in fishing
nets, commercial removal of the guano they use for burrows, and predation. There are worries
that the species could become extinct within decades.