TORONTO, APRIL 7, 2017 - Easter weekend at the Zoo just got more egg-citing! We are proud to announce the successful hatching of four African penguin chicks at the Toronto Zoo! The yet to be named chicks will be viewable in their Indoor Viewing Area beginning Good Friday, April 14, 2017 from 11:00 am to 2:00 pm daily.*
The first two chicks were laid by a new pair, Thandiwe and Matata, who were recommended to breed by the Species Survival Plan (SSP). Although the new pair bonded very quickly, they didn’t do well at incubating their eggs. Their first egg was laid on January 5, 2017 and the Keeper team swiftly intervened and swapped the egg to be raised by surrogate parents Ziggy and DJ, who have been great penguin parents in the past. The second egg was laid by Thandiwe a few days later on January 8, 2017 and Keepers were initially delighted to see her sitting on the egg very tightly, however she had to sit on the egg for seven days in a row. In the wild, penguin parents trade off egg-sitting duties as they both need to hunt and drink for themselves, however, Matata was a first-time parent and did not participate in sitting on the egg. As a result, the second egg was also given to surrogates, proven parents Shaker and Flap.
The other two chicks were laid by another brand new SSP pair, Eldon and Chupa, which are viewed as a genetically important pair in the SSP program. This pair also got along very well, however, given their genetic importance, it was decided to also use surrogates for their first egg. In fact, since DJ and Ziggy were viewed as the most reliable parents, this egg replaced the first egg from the other pair, which in turn went to another proven pair: Squeak and Pedro. A few days later on January 25, 2017, Eldon laid a second egg, which was left with the new pair to raise on their own and they did a great job! Needless-to-say, managing penguin chicks is tricky business! The chicks hatched on February 12, February 15, February 27 and March 4, respectively.
Incubation by the parents occurs for just over a month, then the hatched chicks stay with their parents in the nest for another 3 weeks. By this point the chicks are large and mobile enough for the Penguin Keepers to hand-raise them. Currently, our Keepers are teaching the chicks to be hand-fed fish and to get on a scale for daily weigh-ins. Recently, the Keepers gave them their first swimming lesson. Our hope is them being ready to “fledge” and join our colony at around 80 days.
We were pleasantly surprised to introduce a little more girl power into our penguin colony. It was determined after hatching that three of the four chicks were female, which is good news for North American zoo population, which is predominantly male. Male and female penguins look similar, so a DNA test is required to determine their gender.
The arrival of these chicks signifies a great achievement for these new penguin parents and the African Savanna Wildlife Care staff. This breeding season we were able to reach 100% of our SSP pairing and breeding goals. The Toronto Zoo penguins help draw attention to this imperiled species. Of the 18 penguin species around the world, the African penguin is one of the most endangered. The current population size in the wild for the African penguin is less than half of what it was 40 years ago, which equals only about 3 generations for penguins. Factors still affecting their decline include lack of food (due to climate change and over-fishing), disease, predation, and pollution (mainly oil spills). Today, there are fewer than 20,000 breeding pairs left in South Africa.
Media Information: Please note, the African penguin chicks are not visible to the public at this time. If you would like to coordinate a media interview please contact Amanda Chambers, Public Relations and Events Associate, Toronto Zoo at #416-392-5974 or firstname.lastname@example.org
*Viewing times subject to change
For more information on the Toronto Zoo's involvement in African penguin conservation.