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Maryland Zoo Penguin Colony Grows Again

Posted By : The Animal Facts Editorial Team

Date: October 10, 2020 10:05 pm

maryland zoo penguin chicks

An African penguin chick at the Maryland Zoo

Photo Credit: The Maryland Zoo

The largest colony of African penguins in North America has grown again with the first three chicks for this breeding season hatching at the Maryland Zoo in Baltimore, USA. The chicks hatched at the Penguin coast habitat on September 18th, September 22nd and October 4th.

“It’s amazing to me that we are in our 53rd year working with African penguins. We are always excited to watch the colony grow each year, and happy to announce that three chicks have hatched already this breeding season,” said Jen Kottyan, avian collection and conservation manager. “We expect to hatch 10 chicks during this breeding season, but of course that is all dependent on the penguins.”

“Right now it is spring in South Africa, when these penguins would normally begin breeding in their colonies,” continued Kottyan. “Although it is fall here, we like to mimic the breeding season so we can monitor the chicks as they hatch and grow during our winter, and then they make their debut as juveniles when temperatures warm up in April.”

Penguin chicks are incubated by their parents for 38-42 days before hatching. Carers at Penguin Coast keep an eye on the eggs including candling them at one week old to check if they are fertile (candling is the process of shining a light through the egg to see if it is developing).

maryland zoo penguin chicks

An African penguin chick at the Maryland Zoo

Photo Credit: The Maryland Zoo

“With African penguins, both the male and the female take turns incubating the eggs,” said Kottyan. “Once the eggs hatch, parents take turns caring for their offspring; they each protect, feed, and keep the chick warm for 2-3 days and then switch off.”

At hatching the chicks will be covered with downy, grey feathers. These will be replaced with waterproof feathers by the time they become adults.

Once they hatch the chicks will remain with their parents for three weeks. During this time their parents feed them regurgitated fish. While they grow they are monitored by keepers who conduct regular weigh-ins.

After this three week period keepers remove the chicks and begin to teach them that keepers are the source of food. This will allow them to feed the penguins and complete health checks in to the future.

maryland zoo penguin chicks

An African penguin chick at the Maryland Zoo

Photo Credit: The Maryland Zoo

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Currently the penguin chicks are off display but guests can see adults and juveniles at the zoo.

African penguins are highly endangered with their population having declined 99.2% over the last 100 years. As few as 13,500 pairs were recorded in South Africa in 2019 which represented a decline of 2,000 from the year before.

The Maryland Zoo is a member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ (AZA) and work with them and their other member zoos on a range of programs to help ensure the future of the African penguin.

These include the African Penguin Species Survival Plan (SSP) which controls the breeding of penguins in zoos. They are also part of the AZA’s Saving Animals From Extinction (SAFE) program which uses the expertise of zoo staff to increase conservation outcomes in the wild.

maryland zoo penguin chicks

An African penguin chick at the Maryland Zoo

Photo Credit: The Maryland Zoo

Learn more about African penguins here – African Penguin Fact File | The Animal Facts

Learn more about the Maryland Zoo on their website – Maryland Zoo

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