Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Photos: All Hail NYC's First King #Penguin Baby

Photograph by Julie Larsen Maher/WCS
The Wildlife Conservation Society has announced that the "first royal baby" born in our fair city has arrived—a king penguin chick, to be specific—at the Central Park Zoo's Polar Circle exhibit. According to the WCS:

The chick is the first king penguin (Aptenodytes patagonicus) ever hatched in New York City. The landmark hatching is the result of the expertise and careful husbandry techniques practiced by the zoo’s keepers and curatorial staff...

The parents hatched the chick on exhibit in August. Afterward, all three were moved behind-the-scenes to carefully monitor the young penguin’s health and development. The family recently rejoined the rest of the penguin colony where zoo guests will be able to watch the chick transform from a gawky brownish fluff-ball to an elegant adult penguin.

Photograph by Julie Larsen Maher/WCS
Craig Piper, WCS Director of City Zoos, said, "This hatching is a wonderful accomplishment for our staff. It will be a treat to watch this penguin mature. This was the first year that the king penguin chicks were old enough to potentially produce a fertile egg and we’re thrilled that conditions proved right for them to incubate, hatch, and care for the chick."

The Central Park Zoo has over 60 penguins from four species—gentoo, chinstrap, rockhopper, and king—in the Polar Circle exhibit. Fun fact about the exhibit: "Special lighting simulates natural seasonal adjustments in day/night cycles. The change in sunrise and sunset throughout the year lets the penguins know when it is breeding season and triggers instinctual mating behaviors."

The WCS says that the king penguins"are the newest to the colony and were added to the group in 2010" and that the new baby "brings the total number of king penguins at the zoo to seven." The sex of the new chick hasn't been determined yet, but if it's a boy, we suggest Benedict:

Here are some more details about having king penguin chicks from the WCS:
Careful management of environmental conditions and meticulous monitoring of behaviors are key elements vital to the success of the husbandry work. Observation of certain behaviors like territory selection can be an indicator that an egg is on the way. Rather than building a nest, the king penguin parents incubate the egg on their feet, safely tucked under a flap of skin called a brood pouch to keep it warm. It is passed between the parents for the entire incubation period. The egg is incubated for 53 to 62 days, and the chick will stay with its parents for 10 to 13 months. While in the care of its parents, the chick receives partially digested food that is regurgitated into its mouth. At about 8-10 months, it will start to molt its downy brown feathers that will be replaced by the iconic black, white, and yellow adult plumage.
King penguins are native to subantarctic islands north of Antarctica and the near-by Falkland Islands (Las Malvinas), and Tierra del Fuego. They are the second-largest penguin species, surpassed only by their close relative, the emperor penguin.
The Central Park Zoo is open seven days a week; current hours (until April) are 10 a.m. through 4:30 p.m.; and general admission tickets are $12 for adults, $9 for senior citizens, $7 for children 3 to 12, and free for children younger than 3.


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