In the last weeks of spring, a total of six Rockhopper penguin chicks have hatched. You can now see the offspring in the "kindergarten" of the Polarium. Twice a day, the young birds are fed with fish and their weight is constantly monitored. Each chick squeezes up to 20 small herring and sprats per day. "They already weigh around one and a half kilograms. Their weight gain is ensured by our keepers so that the young animals can develop healthily. The chicks are still wearing a dune dress that is not water-repellent. Therefore, their enclosure has no access to the water basin. Only when they have the first moult behind them, swimming attempts are dared. Then they come back to the group, because even in the wild they live together in large breeding colonies," reports Zoo Director Stephan Hering-Hagenbeck.
The Northern Rockhopper Penguin is highly endangered in its home in the southern Atlantic due to overfishing and environmental pollution – climate change is also making it difficult to deal with. Therefore, the rock penguin is part of a European Conservation Breeding Programme (EQE), which has been coordinated by Schönbrunn Zoo since 2015. "In Europe, the approximately 55 cm tall penguin species with the distinctive yellow tufts of feathers on the head can only be found in very few zoos. As coordinator of the EP, we follow the development of all around 140 rock penguins throughout Europe. We also put together breeding groups for other zoos, and we are always happy to pass on our experience in husbandry and breeding. No other zoo in Europe breeds rock penguins as successfully as we do," says Sabine Frühwirth, Zoological Assistant and EEP Coordinator for Northern Rockhopper Penguins.
Photos: Daniel Zupanc
Translation: Franziska Graumann