Aug 29, 2013 6:16 PM by MELISSA CANONE
Audubon Aquarium of the Americas is thrilled to announce the hatching of three endangered African Blackfooted penguin chicks - making a record of six chicks hatched at the Aquarium in one year. The population boom is a testament to the success of the Audubon Penguin Breeding Program. Hatched in June, the chicks are growing quickly and will permanently join the penguin colony on exhibit beginning Friday, August 30.
The Audubon Aquarium Animal Husbandry staff have affectionately named the chicks Peewee (male), Fuzzy (female) and Sassafras (male). Peewee and Fuzzy are brother and sister (same clutch of eggs from penguins Dobie and Nelson) and Snake and Quatloo are the proud parents of Sassafras.
"With their numbers decreasing by as much as 90% in the past century, the hatching of multiple African penguin chicks is especially significant and makes me incredibly proud of the program's accomplishments," says Audubon Senior Aviculturist Darwin Long. "This has been a record-breaking year due to our improved incubation parameters and fine-tuned hand-rearing process and I'm very optimistic to have more chicks hatch at the Aquarium before the end of the year."
Audubon has made significant improvements to its incubation process - if a penguin chick egg is viable, they can hatch it almost 70% of the time. Due to the their endangered status, the Aquarium continues to adjust and perfect their technique in order to help produce penguin chicks for other institutions to bolster genetics for a captive ‘safety-net' population that may one day be needed to do re-introductions into the wild.
As a Species Survival Plan (SSP) breeding facility, Audubon works to build genetically-diverse captive populations to ensure the survival of threatened or endangered species. Audubon has raised 46 chicks since the Aquarium opened in 1990 and currently is home to 34 African Blackfooted penguins and three Southern Rockhopper penguins.
Visitors to the Aquarium can view the newest additions to the Audubon family at the penguin exhibit and out-of-town penguin enthusiasts can view the penguin chicks and their parents on the Penguin Cam at Animal Planet L!VE.