Talk about a cute birth announcement: The new arrival is fuzzy and fidgety, and also historic. This month, the Maryland Zoo in Baltimore welcomed its 1,000th African penguin chick.
The babe is the lucky 13th penguin to hatch during the Maryland Zoo’s 2017 to 2018 breeding season, but more importantly, it makes Baltimore’s zoo is the first zoo or aquarium in North America to hatch 1,000 African penguin chicks, a real coup for conservation efforts.
African penguins are an endangered species.
What can the zoo tell us about this baby bird? New penguin chicks stay with their parents for three weeks, when they are removed from their nests to learn about their food sources. Chicks then remain in the zoo’s Penguin Conservation Center until their juvenile feathers grow in and they prove adept at swimming. (Yes, they have to learn how to swim, zookeepers tell us.) For the first several weeks of its life, a chick’s gender is not known.
The zoo started its penguin colony in 1967 and hatched its first chick in 1969, according to zoo officials. Its colony of African penguins is the largest in North America and penguins previously bred here have moved to zoos and aquariums in 35 states and six countries; many have helped establish new penguin colonies there.
In addition, the zoo has sent staff to South Africa to work with conservation groups, caring for abandoned chicks and hastening efforts to shore up wild penguin colonies. Maryland penguin specialists have helped prepare a disaster management program for penguin colonies in South Africa and worked with a program that video records penguins hunting in open water to better understand how the government and fishing industry can preserve the species.
Want to meet the 1,000th chick? She/he is not yet ready for a public debut. For updates on this big reveal, check marylandzoo.org.