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Maryland Zoo welcomes ‘extremely endangered’ African penguin chicks

Three African penguin chicks just hatched at the Maryland Zoo in Baltimore as part of their conservation efforts.

They were the first to hatch at the Penguin coast habitat during the 2020-2021 breeding, according to the enclosure. The zoo welcomed them on September 18, September 22, and October 4.

“It’s amazing to me that we are in our 53rd year working with African penguins,” Jen Kottyan, the zoo’s conservation manager, said. “We are always excited to watch the colony grow each year, and happy to announce that three chicks have hatched already this breeding season.”

Seven more chicks are expected to hatch this season, said Kottyan, but that “is all dependent on the penguins.”

The Maryland Zoo is home to the largest colony of African penguins in North America with 104 birds, including the newest hatchlings. Their conservation efforts are truly amazing!

Penguin chicks hatch around 38-42 days after the eggs are laid. About a week after that, the staff monitor their development by shining a light through the egg to see if the chick is growing. Once confirmed, the eggs are brought back to their parents.

African penguins work as a team from the time the eggs are laid until the chicks hatch. Both males and females take turns incubating the eggs, and once they’re out, both parents take turns caring for their offspring. They protect, feed, and keep them warm for 2-3 days before switching off.

After they hatch, the chicks will remain with their parents for about three weeks. During this time, they’re fed regurgitated fish by their parents. Once the chicks are three weeks old, zookeepers take them away from the nest and teach them that the carers are the source of food. This is a crucial step that will allow them to provide long-term care for the birds.

Newborn chicks—about the size of a human palm—are covered in grey, downy feathers upon hatching. They grow up fast and reach their full size of about six pounds around three months of age. Their plumes are done being replaced with waterproof feathers by the time they reach maturity.

Unfortunately, the three new chicks aren’t available for public viewing. However, the juvenile and adult penguins can still be seen at Penguin Coast. There are two instances of Penguin Feeding programs every day, which are free with admission. On the other hand, Penguin Encounters are offered throughout the year for an additional fee.

Unfortunately, these beautiful birds are already an endangered species.

“The 2019 penguin census showed another dramatic decline in South Africa, with approximately 13,500 pairs, a loss of 2,000 pairs from 2018. The global population, which includes Namibia, is now around 18,500 pairs, down from well over 2 million pairs in the 1920s, which is a 99.2% decline over the past 100 years,” according to the Maryland Zoo’s website.

Because of their important work in breeding African penguins for over five decades, the Maryland Zoo has won many prestigious awards for their significant contribution to conservation efforts.

The chicks are expected to make their debut in the park as juveniles when the warmer months come in April.

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