Press Release from the Racine Zoo:

The Racine Zoo is very excited to announce the hatching of an African penguin chick as a part of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA)Species Survival Plan (SSP).

The chick, which hatched on Jan. 1, 2019, is the third African penguin chick to hatch at the Zoo in the last three years. The Racine Zoo previously celebrated the hatching of two African penguin chicks in January 2016.

Beth Heidorn, Executive Director of the Racine Zoo said the African penguin chick is just over three weeks old and is doing well. The Chick weighed 63 grams when hatched – about the same weight as a size “C” battery. The chick doubled its weight by day three, and later weighed450 grams after its eleventh day – about the same weight as a soccer ball, and now weighs in at 970 grams today (just over two pounds)!

Heidorn said the chick’s biological parents Robben, age 12, and Linus, age 6, are doing well, and are “doing a great job caring for their new chick.”

“The Racine Zoo has been diligently cultivating our African penguin breeding program over the years,” Heidorn said. “With the announcement of our new African penguin chick in 2019, we are especially proud to be making a positive long-term impact on African penguin populations, especially as wild populations decline.”

In the coming months, Racine Zoo staff will determine the gender of the chick by taking a blood sample obtained as a part of a routine health exam. In the meantime, Zoo staff will continue monitoring the chick as it grows. Zoo staff expects the chick to officially be on exhibit before summer 2019. Penguins can be seen through the exhibit’s viewing window but since the chick is tucked inside its nest, it may be difficult to see until then.

The hatching comes after the Zoo added four penguins to its colony on exhibit in Dec. 2015, helping to recreate a colony of African penguins similar in size to what is found in the wild.

African penguins are found on the southern tip of Africa and spend most of the day feeding in the ocean and staying cool in the hot climate. Adult African penguins can weigh up to 9 pounds and live to 20 years in the wild and up to 40 years under human care. Their diet consists
of small fish, shellfish, and squid.

There are only about 50,000 African penguins left in the wild, according to 2013 estimates. The main threats to their survival include environmental issues such as habitat loss, oil spills, water pollution, and commercial overfishing.

The African penguin was selected as one of the original 10 featured animals included in AZA’s Save Animals From Extinction (SAFE) program introduced in the summer of 2015. Now there are more than 19 featured animals in the SAFE program and more added monthly. Through the AZA SAFE program, AZA and its members will convene scientists and stakeholders to identify the threats, develop action plans, raise new resources and engage the public. For more information about African penguin conservation programs and initiatives, visit
azaanimals.org or SANCCOB at sanccob.co.za. Information can also be found on racinezoo.org.

The AZA African Penguin Species Survival Plan ® (SSP) Program manages 800 African penguins within and cooperatively among ~50 AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums. This subpopulation is genetically and demographically healthy.

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