Penguin chicks by the numbers

Photo by Kelli O’Brien

There are currently 43 African penguins in the Zoo’s flock: 21 males, 13 females and nine unknown.

Unknown? Yep.

That’s because the best way to determine the sex of some birds, including penguins, is to look at the animals’ DNA, and we like to wait until the birds are older to take a feather sample. So the gender of some of our younger chicks remains a mystery, for now.

Since 1999, the Zoo has had 93 successful hatchlings. Some of these have been sent to 25 accredited zoos and aquariums across North America, including The Toledo Zoo, the Mystic Aquarium in Connecticut, the Minnesota Zoo, Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo, Denver Zoo and Georgia Aquarium, in order to save and sustain the species. Imported from South Africa in 1996, the founding penguins of the Zoo’s flock created a strong genetic line that has shaped the wider population in conservation care.

Photo by Kelli O’Brien

The rest make up the 43 penguins in the Zoo’s flock.  The most recent addition came when 6 baby chicks–Gizmo, Blue, Obi, Sky, Marvel and Swoop–hatched in January. Every year for the last 16 years, the Zoo has had more successful hilariously-named hatchlings, starting with Little Ricky in 1999. Here’s a breakdown:

  • 2014 (3): Doni, Cricket, Roman
  • 2013 (11): Bub, Blitzwing, Chuck, Charlie, Avery, Darcy, Pippin, Elrond, Gimli, Smeagol, Jerry
  • 2012 (5): Bamm-Bamm, Shadow, Pebbles, Jazz, Beazle
  • 2011 (6): Mackenzie, Ty, Alex, Sam, Huey, Thumper
  • 2010 (7): Parker, Sparky, Sparkles, Haley, Wesley, Pip, Unknown name
  • 2009 (5): Phoenix, Dassen, Jackie, Robben, Georgia
  • 2008 (7): Geyser, Butters, Lionel, Tazmania, Tweak, Cricket, Sweet Pea
  • 2007 (6): Boulder, Pomona, Sinclair, Wedge, Chicken Hawk, Seneca
  • 2006 (5): Twiggy, Wash, Zoey, Awesomo, Plum Pudding
  • 2005 (9): Tyson, Pickle, Triangle, Ren, Stimpy, Jonny B, Fire Fly, Piccolo, Forest
  • 2004 (9): Terri, Arthur, Wilson, Guiness, Regan, Kyle, Tiny Tim, Goliath, Pearl
  • 2003 (1): Ash
  • 2002 (6): Poopy, Roxy, Teapot, Gia, Eze, PP
  • 2001 (3): Pedro, Pete, Calista
  • 2000 (3): Tonic, Vincent, Little Jim
  • 1999 (1): Little Ricky

African penguins are found in coastal areas and seas off the southern tip of Africa. Once abundant in their natural range, there has been a 60% decline in population in the last 30 years. Numbers have dwindled so quickly that in 2010, African penguins were listed as endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List.

Photo by Kevin Blakely

Knowledge gained from the success of breeding programs in zoos is being used to help assist breeding programs in situ, where population decline is due in large part to breeding failure. The South African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds (SANCCOB), a non-profit organization dedicated to the preservation of sea birds, has, for example, established The Chick Bolstering Project. The initiative is a collaborative effort to introduce hand-reared chicks back into their natural range to combat population decline.

Seneca Park Zoo supports organizations such as SANCCOB as they work tirelessly to save this magnificent bird in its natural range.


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