TORONTO, ON, Tuesday, April 2, 2019: Toronto Zoo is excited to announce the successful hatching of an endangered African penguin chick on Friday, March 1, 2019! The egg was laid by penguin pair, Ellie and Chupa, who were recommended to breed by the Species Survival Plan (SSP). This is the third chick for this pair, who are fairly inexperienced parents, having only raised one chick themselves. While raising their first chick, Ellie and Chupa encountered a few parenting difficulties; so this time around Wildlife Care made the decision to call upon veteran penguin parents, Flap and Shaker, to help out. After allowing Ellie and Chupa to incubate for the first couple weeks, the egg was pulled and given to penguin pair, Flap and Shaker, who finished incubation and continued raising the chick after it hatched.
Generally, incubation by the parents occurs for just over a month. The hatched chicks will then stay with their parents in the nest for another three weeks. Penguin chicks grow very fast, therefore becoming independent of their parents at a fairly young age. At day 21, Wildlife Care Keepers traditionally remove the chick from the parents to begin the hand-rearing process. By this point, the chick is quite large and mobile enough for the Keepers to care for them.
Currently, our Keepers are teaching the chick to be hand-fed fish and to get on a scale for daily weigh-ins. Next week, Keepers will be prepping the chick for its first swimming lesson. Our hope is to have the chick being ready to “fledge” and join our colony at around 80 days. African penguins do not show sexual dimorphism, so until bloodwork is performed by our Wildlife Health Team, we won’t know the gender!
The arrival of this endangered African penguin chick signifies a great achievement for these penguin parents and the African Savanna Wildlife Care staff. The Toronto Zoo was able to reach 100% of our SSP pairing and breeding goals with the success of this breeding season. The African penguins at Zoo help draw attention to this imperiled species. Of the 18 penguin species around the world, the African penguin is one of the most endangered. Over the past century, the population size of wild African penguins has dropped by more than 97%. Factors still affecting their decline include lack of food (due to climate change and over-fishing), disease, predation, and pollution (mainly oil spills). Recent estimates suggest, there could be as few as than 25,000 breeding pairs left in the wild.
Please note the African penguin chick is not currently visible to the public.