The first-ever endangered African Penguin chick has hatched at Lincoln Park Zoo’s new Robert and Mayari Pritzker Penguin Cove. After a 38-day incubation period, the chick emerged on February 10.
At a recent wellness exam, veterinary staff deemed the chick healthy. During the exam, veterinary staff also drew blood, which will be sent for lab analysis to determine the chick’s sex. Once that is revealed, keepers can decide on an appropriate name.
The chick is the offspring of mom, Robben, and dad, Preston. According to Hope B. McCormick Curator of Birds, Sunny Nelson, the first-time parents are proving to be naturals.
“Our keepers are constantly monitoring both the parents and the chick to ensure that the parents are meeting the chick’s needs as it reaches developmental milestones,” said Nelson. “Both Robben and Preston are performing parental duties as expected, sharing brooding and feeding responsibilities.”
African Penguin chicks typically fledge around 70 to 80 days after hatching. The chick will retain its downy feathers until it molts into waterproof juvenile plumage. After one to two years, African Penguins molt into their iconic tuxedo-like adult plumage.
Animal Care staff plans to give the chick access to a behind-the-scenes pool to ensure that its feathers are waterproof before introducing the chick to the rest of the exhibit.
The chick’s parents were paired as a part of the African Penguin Species Survival Plan® (SSP), a collaborative population management effort among institutions within the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA).
Lincoln Park Zoo works closely with the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ (AZA’s) Saving Animals From Extinction (SAFE) program, which focuses the collective expertise within AZA-accredited facilities to save endangered species. The African Penguin is a SAFE priority species due to its decreasing population in the wild, which has gone from 141,000 breeding pairs in 1956 to only about 25,000 today.
The African Penguins at Robert and Mayari Pritzker Penguin Cove serve as ambassadors, teaching guests about the plight of this species in the wild due to human-wildlife conflict.
“African Penguins ignite a sense of wonder and a connection with wildlife,” said Vice President for Learning and Community Engagement, Dana Murphy. “We hope that seeing the newest member of the colony helps guests turn that connection into caring, empowering them to take actions to save this endangered species.”
The African Penguin (Spheniscus demersus), also called Black-footed Penguin due to the color of their feet, have pink coloration around their eyes, black breast-band and belly markings. Native to the shores of South Africa and Namibia, these beach-dwellers are one of 18 Penguin species worldwide. They are currently classified as “Endangered” on the IUCN Red List.
Learn more about the colony at Lincoln Park Zoo, via their website: www.lpzoo.org/penguin .