On December 6, Tampa's Lowry Park Zoo keepers welcomed the third successful hatching this year of an endangered African Penguin chick. After 10 days, the downy grey chick was alert, warm and vocalizing, three positive signs of health and strength. It is nesting inside the Penguin building under the watchful care of first-time parents, Tinkerbell and Loki. To date, the parents are very attentive and sharing in the brooding responsibilities of the hatchling, whose gender has not yet been determined. The tiny chick weighed just 54 grams when hatched, and has grown to 272 grams as of December 15.
The newest Penguin chick will remain with the parents for a few weeks, then be transitioned to zookeeper care to facilitate independence and learning to swim, before ultimately joining the colony on exhibit in several months. Once on exhibit, it will be easy to spot with its dark gray juvenile plumage for about a year. This will be replaced by the characteristic black and white feathers following its first molt.
African Penguins, endemic to mainly offshore islands on South Africa’s coast, were reclassified in 2010 from 'vulnerable' to 'endangered' on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature's Red List (IUCN). The Zoo’s penguins are members of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) African Penguin Species Survival Plan (SSP) program.
For an up-close encounter with the zoo’s penguins, aviary keepers and zoo docents (trained volunteers) offer educational talks and penguin feedings twice daily to engage guests while the birds feed, swim, waddle and play. The zoo also hosts an African Penguin Awareness Day in October, and works in cooperation with the Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds (SANCCOB), a seabird rehabilitation centre is based in Cape Town, South Africa.