Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Penguin chick hatched at the Calgary Zoo

It’s a squawking, one week-old, 100-gram ball of grey fluff, and something for the Calgary Zoo to celebrate during a difficult time of rebuilding and recovery.

A Gentoo penguin chick was born last week, the first to be hatched at the Penguin Plunge since the exhibit opened in February 2012, and the first newborn animal since the zoo was inundated by a massive flood June 20.

“Having a chick being born is a huge success on its own, especially after such a string of bad news and losses,” Dr. Malu Celli, curator of the Penguin Plunge, said Monday. “We’re all extremely happy.”

The egg was laid May 31 and parents, Gentoo penguin pair Giselle and Lachlan, took turns incubating it for 37 days. The chick hatched July 7 at about 1:15 p.m.

While the Penguin Plunge was spared from the deluge that ravaged much of the zoo’s 13-hectare island, it was still a stressful time for the penguins at the exhibit, and the building lost power for two days.

Through it all, two-year-old Giselle and 18-year-old Lachlan managed to stay focused on the task at hand.

“The chick is a proof of their hard work,” Celli said. “The chick is doing fine, very vocal, and growing stronger every day. The parents are doing a fantastic job.”

Giselle and Lachlan are a recommended breeding pair under a species survival plan — a captive breeding program for endangered species — that has been adopted by most accredited zoos across North America.

“The Gentoo population is in rapid decline and it’s important for us to follow the (plan’s) recommendations and have genetically important individuals in captivity to safeguard in case something happens with the wild population,” Celli said.

The birth comes after three Gentoo eggs had to be destroyed in May as some of the parents involved were not recommended for breeding due to their untraceable genetic history.
Giselle and Lachlan were both single when they arrived at the zoo from SeaWorld in San Antonio, Texas, and among a group of male and female singletons placed together as they were recommended for breeding.

“Those two got together, and paired, and we were really happy,” Celli said. “They are one of the most valuable pairs we have.”

The couple is caring for the chick together as penguins would do in the wild. The baby’s gender has not yet been determined.

The zoo’s penguin team has been keeping a close eye on the family over the past week to ensure Giselle and Lachlan are adapting to parenthood and that the chick is doing well, Celli said.
The public will get to view the chick July 31 when the Penguin Plunge reopens, along with the Prehistoric Park and the Canadian Wilds exhibits. The rest of the zoo will reopen in phases over five months as it continues to recover and rebuild.

The zoo faces about $50 million in flood damage and an estimated $10 million in lost revenue. The zoo laid off more than 300 staff members due to reduced operations, and must also send 34 animals to other facilities after the flood destroyed the South America building.


Images courtesy of Calgary Zoo

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