Thursday, July 8, 2010

Woodland Park Penguin News

Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo
Five Humboldt penguin chicks, such as this male born April 25, are now able to be viewed at the Woodland Park Zoo.

Penguin chicks now on view at zoo

Five Humboldt penguin chicks have joined the adult colony in Woodland Park Zoo’s penguin exhibit. The chicks hatched between April 1 and April 25, but were kept from public viewing until now.

The chicks are the result of the first breeding and nesting season for the colony of 18 Humboldt penguins since the exhibit opened a year ago. The new families are first-time parents P.J. and Dora with two chicks; Quanto and Gonzo with a pair; and Diego and Radar, the parents of a single chick.

Penguin fans can connect with the zoo online to help name Diego and Radar’s chick, a male, which hatched on April 25. Fans can submit name suggestions for the chick to the wall of the zoo’s Facebook page beginning July 7 through noon July 8.

To honor the Humboldt penguin’s Chilean and Peruvian native range, fans are encouraged to submit Spanish-language names. Penguin keepers will select their three favorite names from the submissions, and fans will then vote on July 9 on the zoo’s Facebook page for their top pick.

Since their hatching, the chicks had been under the care of their parents in specially constructed nesting burrows in the new penguin exhibit. The chicks were pulled a few weeks ago from the nests to allow keeper staff to condition the birds to hand feed and train for other activities, such as approaching staff and entering and exiting the exhibit on cue.

To get them used to being in the water, the chicks had round-the-clock access to a shallow pool behind the scenes at the exhibit where they could practice floating and swimming in a more controlled and less crowded environment.

The chicks are becoming more and more comfortable with the zookeepers and are accepting fish by hand like all the adult penguins do, according to a Woodland Park Zoo press release.

“Hand feeding each of the birds is a very important part of their daily care," Mark Myers, bird curator at the zoo, said in the press release. "This allows us to keep track of how much each bird is eating and ensures that each individual receives its vitamin supplement."

Myers said the chicks have reached adult size, but visitors will be able to distinguish them by their lighter and more grayish plumage.

Humboldt penguins, an endangered species, inhabit hot, dry coastlines in Peru and Chile. 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, breeding the birds through the Species Survival Plan and encouraging visitors to choose sustainable seafood options, according to the zoo press release.