Successful Breeding Program Leads to a Significant Penguin Move
Audubon Aquarium transfers 20 endangered penguins to bolster populations
As part of a collaborative management and breeding program, 20 out of the 40 African penguins at Audubon Aquarium of the Americas have been transferred to fellow Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) institutions and members of the African black-footed penguin Species Survival Plan (SSP). This program is for selected species in zoos and aquariums to manage breeding in order to maintain a healthy and genetically sustainable population in human care.
As part of a collaborative management and breeding program, 20 out of the 40 African penguins at Audubon Aquarium of the Americas have been transferred to fellow Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) institutions and members of the African black-footed penguin Species Survival Plan (SSP). This program is for selected species in zoos and aquariums to manage breeding in order to maintain healthy and genetically sustainable population in human care.
"Collaboration with other institutions is essential to maintain a 'safety net' population of endangered species in human care," said Darwin Long, Senior Aviculturist at Audubon Aquarium of the Americas. "By stirring the genetic pot, we can ensure the sustainability of a diverse and healthy penguin population."
Audubon Aquarium of the Americas has hatched 54 penguins since opening in 1990 and 13 in the past three years. Penguin populations in the wild face enormous challenges, primarily because their food supply is overfished. This sobering fact underscores the importance of breeding efforts at Audubon and elsewhere.
Staff carefully prepared the birds for their departure. The penguins were given exit exams by Audubon Nature Institute's veterinarian and staff maintained close communication with the birds’ new caregivers. The penguins selected for the transfer were chosen based on genetics, future breeding capability, age, compatibility with colony members, and ownership records.
The penguins were welcomed into their new homes by Idaho Falls Zoo; Como Park Zoo & Conservatory in Minnesota; and Maryland Zoo.
“We‘re looking forward to welcoming the penguins into our existing colony”, said Michelle Furrer, Como Park Zoo & Conservatory Director. “It’s always exciting to work with other AZA and SSP members such as the Audubon Aquarium of the Americas on these important, far-reaching projects.”
“SSP programs are our opportunity as zoos and aquariums to help conserve endangered species worldwide, said Dr. David Pennock, Idaho Falls Zoo Superintendent. "The Black-footed penguin SSP is an important effort to help ensure the long-term viability of this wonderful endangered species. Idaho Falls Zoo at Tautphaus Park is thrilled to welcome a penguin from the Audubon Aquarium and proud to be a part of this essential conservation effort."
“We are always happy to work cooperatively with our AZA colleagues who are also committed to saving these animals from extinction,” said Jen Kottyan, avian collection and conservation manager at The Maryland Zoo. “We now have the room to house 100 penguins at Penguin Coast, and we look forward to adding to our colony.”
"For several years now, our animal care staff has tirelessly cared for all 40 of the birds in the penguin colony. They have put their hearts and souls into every minute of it. Saying goodbye is never easy, especially to such wonderful animals. They have truly enriched our facility and touched the hearts and minds of countless guests, families, and school children. They will be missed, but they are going to fantastic new homes to be cared for by staff who will take good care of them."
The transition of birds out of the colony will not affect Audubon's Backstage Penguin Pass program and the penguin habitat will remain a highlight for guests visiting the Aquarium. Upgrades to the exhibit are in the planning phase, and after renovations are completed, the Aquarium will resume its breeding program, continuing to contribute to the genetic diversity of penguins in AZA facilities and supporting the SSP in its conservation goals.
- Between 2010 and 2014, more than 30 AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums reported taking part in or supporting field conservation projects benefiting African penguins.
- Over those five years, the AZA community invested almost a half million dollars in African penguin conservation.
- The AZA African Penguin Species Survival Plan® (SSP) Program plays a lead role in conservation initiatives to help penguins in the wild, and cooperatively manages more than 800 African penguins in approximately 50 AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums to ensure a genetically diverse and healthy population.
- AZA SAFE will further these efforts by harnessing the collective power of the 230 AZA member institutions and our 180 million visitors, connecting partners, and creating and executing a conservation action plan to help penguins in the wild.
Audubon Nature Institute operates a family of museums, parks and research facilities dedicated to celebrating the wonders of nature. Through innovative live animal exhibits, education programs, and scientific discovery, Audubon makes a meaningful contribution to preserving wildlife for the future. Audubon Nature Institute flagships include Audubon Park, Audubon Zoo, Audubon Aquarium of the Americas, Entergy Giant Screen Theater, Audubon Butterfly Garden and Insectarium, Audubon Louisiana Nature Center, Freeport-McMoRan Audubon Special Survival Center, Woldenberg Riverfront Park and Audubon Wilderness Park. Ron Forman is President and CEO of Audubon Nature Institute.