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50th penguin chick marks Woodland Park Zoo milestone

Posted by: Gigi Allianic, Communications


Photo by John Loughlin/Woodland Park Zoo.

With two late-in-the-season Humboldt penguin hatchings, Woodland Park Zoo has hit a new milestone—50 chicks hatched since 2010, the first breeding season in our new penguin exhibit.

Over the last six breeding seasons at the zoo, penguin chicks have typically hatched between April and May. While the two chicks are latecomers, they are genetically valuable to the North America population. They are the first offspring for 3-year-old father Maximiliano and numbers 11 and 12 for 8-year-old Dora.

The chicks are off exhibit in nesting burrows where they are under the care of the parents. To ensure the chicks are achieving growth milestones, staff weighs them as they develop. Staff minimizes intervention to allow the parents to raise their chicks and gain parental experience.

Photo by John Loughlin/Woodland Park Zoo.

This year’s breeding season produced a total of eight penguin chicks, six of which have now joined the other 39 penguins on view in the award-winning Humboldt penguin exhibit. Look for the older chicks on your next visit with their tell-tale lighter, more grayish feathers.

Before the two newest chicks reach fledging age and go outdoors on exhibit, they will be removed from the nest so keepers can condition the birds to approach them for hand feeding and other animal care activities. The chicks also will have round-the-clock access to a shallow pool where they can swim in a more controlled and less crowded environment. The two will join the colony of penguins in the outdoor exhibit sometime in early fall.

Photo by John Loughlin/Woodland Park Zoo.

Woodland Park Zoo participates in the Species Survival Plan (SSP) for Humboldt penguins. An endangered species, these birds are important conservation ambassadors to teach visitors about the impacts humans have on penguins in their range countries. SSPs are sponsored by the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA) and led by experts in husbandry, nutrition, veterinary care, behavior, conservation and genetics. AZA-accredited institutions manage each species as one population in North America to maximize genetic diversity, with the goal of ensuring the long-term survival of the population and the health of individual animals.

Photo by John Loughlin/Woodland Park Zoo.

The penguin exhibit, which opened in 2009, takes zoo visitors to the desert coast of Punta San Juan—home of the largest colony of wild Humboldt penguins in Peru. The 17,000-square-foot naturalistic home features shoreline cliffs, viewable entrances to nesting burrows, rocky tide pools, crashing waves and a beach.

Photo by Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo.

People do not usually think of penguins as a desert species. Unlike their ice and snow-dwelling Antarctic cousins, Humboldt penguins inhabit hot, dry coastlines in Peru and Chile. They live on rocky mainland shores, especially near cliffs, or on coastal islands. Humboldt penguins have a body made to swim. Using their strong wings, they “fly” underwater, usually just below the surface, at speeds of up to 20 miles per hour. They steer with their feet and tail.

Photo by Dennis Dow/Woodland Park Zoo.

It is estimated that only 12,000 survive in the wild. Woodland Park Zoo is committed to conserving Humboldt penguins by supporting the Humboldt Penguin Conservation Center at Punta San Juan, Peru, breeding the birds through the Species Survival Plan and encouraging visitors to choose sustainable seafood options.

Photo by Dennis Dow/Woodland Park Zoo.

Every time you visit, you make this work possible. Saturdays and Sundays at 1:30 p.m. are an especially great time to learn more during the penguin keeper talk. See you there!