The African Black-footed Penguin flock at the Seneca Park
Zoo grew by five chicks in the past month. October through April is the peak
nesting season and these tiny additions need lots of help from their caretakers. The Penguins pictured here range from one day to 18 days old.
On top of the normal two feedings a day, parents who are rearing
chicks are offered extra fish daily. Zoo keepers diligently record
fish intake, making sure each parent has enough to sustain themselves as well
as their offspring. Every other day (from hatch to day 80 – when chicks are
weaned from their parents) the Penguin chicks are weighed. If at any time a
chick falls below an acceptable weight, night feedings are incorporated into
Photo Credit: Photo 1, Kelli O’Brien, Photo 2,3,4: Kara Masaschi
On the days chicks are weighed, keepers also perform a mini
physical exam: eyes should be bright and free of discharge, the chick should be
vocal and alert, and after a couple of weeks they should be relatively mobile.
Just as they would in the wild, parents do all the work, from the moment the
egg is laid until the chick is weaned. That said, keepers are the first line of
defense if something doesn’t seem quite right within these first, fragile few
weeks of life.
In 2010, the African Black-footed Penguin was listed as an endangered
species. In the early 1900s, the wild population was estimated at more than 1.5
million individuals. Today about 20,000 birds remain, with a 60% loss of
population within the past 30 years. This is largely due to food base declines,
competition with the fishing industry and Cape fur seals, as well as a major
shift in prey due to changes in their ecosystem. Habitat destruction and oil
spills have also contributed greatly to the decline in the African Black-footed
In an effort aimed to help their species, the Penguins at Seneca Park Zoo
are carefully managed by a Species
Survival Program (SSP). This program is a collaborative effort among AZA
accredited zoos and aquariums in North America to breed the most genetically
diverse population of this Penguin species.