POPULATING PENGUINS at Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo

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TLPZ - African penguin chick 1

PHOTO BY Joshua Caraballo, aviary zookeeper, taken Dec 15 when the chick was nine days old. 

POPULATING PENGUINS at Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo

Dec 19, 2011

TAMPA, Fla. (December 16, 2011) – It appears that good things come in threes as well. On December 6, zookeepers welcomed the third successful hatching this year of an endangered African penguin chick.

Now 10 days old, the downy grey chick is alert, warm and vocalizing, three positive signs of health and strength. It is nesting inside the penguin building under the watchful care of first-time parents, Tinkerbell and Loki. To date, the parents are very attentive and sharing in the brooding responsibilities of the hatchling, whose gender has not yet been determined. The tiny chick weighed just 54 grams when hatched, and has grown to 272 grams as of Dec. 15.

This year has been a highly successful one for the Zoo’s aviary department with accomplishments including:

  • Receipt of the Avian Scientific Advisory Group (ASAG) Plume Award #2 for “Noteworthy Achievement in Avian Husbandry” for the historic 2009 hatching of the shoebill stork chick (March 23);
  • First and second hatching of an African penguin (February 11 and May 19);
  • First hatching of a tarictic hornbill (June 6);
  • First hatching of greater flamingos – six chicks (July/Aug);
  • First hatching of a sun bittern (Aug. 25); and
  • Hatching of two Bali mynah (Sept. 14).

“Without question these, accomplishments are of historical significance for the zoo and the aviculture community,” noted Dr. Larry Killmar, VP and director of collections. 

The newest penguin chick will remain with the parents for a few weeks, then be transitioned to zookeeper care to facilitate independence and learning to swim, before ultimately joining the colony on exhibit in several months. Once on exhibit, it will be easy to spot with its dark gray juvenile plumage for about a year, which will be replaced by the characteristic black and white feathers following its first molt.

African penguins, endemic to mainly offshore islands on South Africa’s coast, were reclassified in 2010 from 'vulnerable' to 'endangered' on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature's Red List. The Zoo’s penguins are members of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) African Penguin Species Survival Plan (SSP) program. 

There are 17 species of penguins in the world, each distinctive.  Not all species live in frigid climates, with some well suited for warm climates.  African penguins are also known “black-footed” penguins or “jackass” penguins for their donkey-like braying sounds. The wild population has declined drastically (estimated 80 percent) in the last 50 years due to loss of habitat and oil pollution.

For an up-close encounter with the Zoo’s penguins, aviary keepers and Zoo docents (trained volunteers) offer educational talks and penguin feedings twice daily to engage guests while the birds feed, swim, waddle and play.  The Zoo also hosts an African Penguin Awareness Day in October, and works in cooperation with the Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds (SANCCOB), a seabird rehabilitation centre is based in Cape Town, South Africa.

Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo acknowledges with gratitude the generous support of Ameriprise Financial in its sponsorship of the Penguin Beach exhibit.

About Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo

Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo is operated by the Lowry Park Zoological Society, an independent 501(c)(3) charitable organization committed to excellence in education, conservation and research. Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), and has been named the No. 1 zoo in America by both Parents magazine (2009) and Child magazine (2004). The Zoo is located at 1101 W. Sligh Avenue in Tampa, one mile west of I-275 (exit 48) and is open seven days a week, from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, with extended hours on select nights during special events. Zoo daytime admission prices are: adult - $23.95, seniors (60+) - $21.95, children ages 3-11 - $18.95, and children 2 and under are free.  Daytime admission is value-priced toinclude unlimited amusement ridesParking is free. For more information, visit LowryParkZoo.com.  Also find the Zoo on Facebook.

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