“The little penguins are acclimating well to their new home and are quite a sight to see,” said Jim Breheny, WCS Executive Vice President and General Director of the WCS Zoos and Aquarium. “The Bronx Zoo is focused on the conservation of the species we exhibit, and international partnerships and breeding programs like that of the little penguin are vital to ensuring the survival of the species in the wild through education, awareness, and connecting people to nature in a way that can only be accomplished through close, in-person encounters.”
Little penguins are rare in the US with just three facilities currently providing a home for them. These penguins made the long trip from Taronga Zoo in Australia as part of a plan to add genetic diversity to the US little penguin population. Taronga Zoo runs the most successful little penguin breeding program in the world with 15 penguins hatching there each year.
Taronga Zoo Director and Chief Executive, Cameron Kerr, said: “The little penguins at the Bronx Zoo have taken on the role of international ambassadors for their species. Visitors to the Bronx Zoo from around the world can come to learn about these wonderful Australian marine animals. This group of little penguins will ensure a thriving population in the U.S. for many years to come.”
These penguins also go by the names, blue penguin and fairy penguin. They are smallest of the 18 penguin species and grow to just 33cm (13in) tall. They are the only penguin which breeds on the coast on Australia. Here they inhabit temperate marine burrows. They will hunt fish, cephalopods and crustaceans by day then return to their burrow at night to rest.
Wild penguin populations are under threat due to climate change and human activities. Taronga Zoo is aiming to slow their decline by supporting conservation programs on Sydney Harbour. This includes rehabilitation, breeding programs, monitoring and awareness campaigns. In some places guard dogs protect colonies to protect them from predation.
Photo Credit: Julie Larsen Maher © Wildlife Conservation Society