Posted: Jan 18, 2011 6:39 PM CST Updated: Jan 18, 2011 6:39 PM CST
MONTEREY, Calif- The Monterey Bay Aquarium regrets to announce the death of its second African blackfooted penguin chick. Staff found the chick, which hatched January 11 in the penguin exhibit in the aquarium's "Splash Zone: Ocean Homes" family gallery, dead in its nest Tuesday afternoon.
"We're devastated," said Aimee Greenebaum, associate curator of aviculture. "We know these penguin chicks have a high mortality rate, but you're never really prepared for the worst."
There were no visible signs of trauma, said Aquarium Veterinarian Dr. Mike Murray. He will send the chick's body to the California Animal Health and Food Safety Laboratory at U.C. Davis, where an avian pathologist will perform tests to try to determine the cause of death.
The first penguin chick, now 10 days old, continues to gain weight, according to Greenebaum. As of Monday, it weighed approximately 15 ounces, nearly double its last weight of about 8 ounces on Friday. Greenebaum cautions that she still considers this chick vulnerable, despite its robust growth, because of its young age and the fact that it is being raised by first-time parents.
The parents of both chicks are Dassen and Umngane who are still caring for their first chick inside their nest site high up in the penguin exhibit. Staff moved their second egg to the nest of adoptive parents Tranya and Molopo in early December to incubate and raise. Adoptive parenting is standard procedure among members of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), especially with endangered or threatened animals that – like African blackfooted penguins – are part of a Species Survival Plan.
In the wild, blackfooted penguin pairs often lay two eggs. Sometimes only one egg hatches, and if both hatch, the larger chick often commands more attention – and therefore gets more food. Dr. Murray said even in an exhibit environment, a younger and smaller second chick faces greater odds to survive than does the first chick hatched.
Aquarium staff will continue to update the first chick's progress on the aquarium's website (www.montereybayaquarium.org), Sea Notes blog (seanotesblog.org)and through its Facebook fan page (www.facebook.com/montereybayaquarium).