The Long Island Aquarium recently relocated two of their female African Black-footed Penguins, Elaine and Jerry, to the Metro Richmond Zoo in Virginia. In exchange, the Aquarium acquired two males, Simon (born in August 2014) and Jim (born in October 2015). The move was beneficial to both facilities with regards to their breeding programs. The African penguin population has declined more than 60% in the wild due to human intervention including commercial overfishing of their main food source, oil spills and the collection of guano (which penguins use in their nests) as fertilizer. To help with their populations, many zoos and aquariums participate in a breeding program in an effort to gain public support for conservation of the species.
Simon and Jim, two African Black-footed Penguins. Photo Credit: Long Island Aquarium.
African penguins mate for life and the Aquarium had an uneven ratio of females to males, which meant a few of the females did not have a male to bond with. These girls will now have the opportunity to find a mate at their new facility. The new male penguins will also have the chance to find a partner when they get a little older and have the opportunity to connect with the rest of the Aquarium’s colony. Simon, the older penguin is currently out on display. Jim remains behind the scenes while waiting to lose the rest of his baby feathers. He cannot swim until those feathers are replaced with his new waterproof set. The Metro Richmond Zoo is thrilled to have the two females as they bring fresh bloodlines to their breeding program. This move provides great genetic diversity to both facilities.