Cheyenne Mountain Zoo recently celebrated the hatching of a healthy African Penguin chick on December 13.
When the new chick hatched, it weighed approximately 51 grams, or just shy of 2 ounces (about the same as two slices of bread). Thanks to successful care by its first-time parents, it has already grown to about 2.5 pounds, or 40 ounces, in just over a month. That means the chick has grown by 20 times its initial hatch weight in approximately 35 days.
“Even at just over 30 days old, it’s already pretty feisty,” said Patty Wallace, lead Aquatics animal keeper. “That’s a good sign, since it’s a natural defense mechanism for chicks in the wild.”
The chick is being cared for by its parents, Murphy and Joe, in an off-exhibit area for now and is not currently viewable to the public. Once the chick molts for the first time and grows its adult feathers, it will be safe for it to be socialized with the rest of the flock in the main exhibit. Until the adult feathers come in, the chick doesn’t have waterproof protection, so it needs to be kept away from the exhibit’s pool for safety.
Keepers named the chick “Penny”. Although they will not know the gender of the chick until DNA testing is conducted, this unisex name serves as a nod to Cheyenne Mountain Zoo’s founder, Spencer Penrose, and the fact that the Zoo considers the chick their “lucky Penny.”
Although the Zoo has had previous Penguin hatchlings, past chicks were, unfortunately, not viable past 10 days. However, the Zoo felt that it was still important to allow the birds to do what came naturally by laying eggs, and keepers saw the egg incubating experience as helpful to the adults in the flock.
Veterinarians and Penguin experts are not sure why the offspring have been unsuccessful until now. However, several theories trace back to the Zoo’s aging Hippo and Penguin exhibit that was built in 1959. The Zoo is currently working to address those concerns with a $10.4 million capital campaign called Making Waves, which will fund new state-of-the-art buildings for both Hippos and Penguins.
The Zoo is excited to be planning a new exhibit for the Penguins that will address concerns about an outdated air filtration system that shared air between the Hippos and Penguins, as well as with a non-public maintenance workshop. Penguins have notoriously sensitive respiratory systems, which are even more sensitive in newly hatched chicks. The Zoo’s Hippos were recently relocated to Springfield, MO while their new exhibit is built, and the maintenance shop has also moved. The Zoo thinks these changes may have helped improve the new chick’s health.
The Zoo anticipates that the new chick will be able to go on public exhibit sometime in late February or early March, after it’s safe for it to have access to the pool. After that, guests will have about 30 to 60 days to visit the Penguins before they leave Cheyenne Mountain Zoo to make way for construction on a new exhibit.
“It’s bittersweet that our chick will have to leave so soon, but we’re so thankful for the time we were able to spend caring for it,” said Wallace.
To date, the Zoo has raised $8.7 million of the total needed to build a modern new home for Penguins and Hippos. One new feature of the exhibit will be separate air filtration systems for the two species, which could help produce healthier offspring in the future. Another feature will allow Penguins the opportunity to go outside at will, which they are not able to do in the current exhibit.
To make a contribution to the “Making Waves” fundraising campaign for the Zoo’s new Hippo and Penguin exhibits, please visit: www.cmzoo.org/makingwaves .
African Penguins are endangered in the wild, and Cheyenne Mountain Zoo’s guests have been actively working to save them through contributions to the Zoo’s Quarters for Conservation (Q4C) program. Each guest contributes 75¢ to conservation every time they visit the Zoo. Over the past seven years, more than $75,000 has been donated from the Q4C fund to South African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds (SANCCOB), an organization in Africa that does hands-on work to save Penguins in the wild.