Audubon Aquarium on Penguin Egg Hatch Watch
When Audubon Aquarium reopens this summer, its penguin colony will have new members. The animal care team at the Aquarium is currently on the watch for not one, but two penguin eggs to hatch!
Resident penguins Hubig (mother) and Ocio (father) have two eggs in their clutch, and both are expected to hatch soon. They are experienced penguin parents – they are the parents of Zion (hatched 2020) and Moon (hatched in 2021).
The animal care team at the Aquarium has separated the eggs to give the parents a chance to hatch and rear one chick on their own. That chick will stay with the parents for about three weeks before being animal care team takes over to work with the chick to learn behaviors that make it will assist in their ongoing care.
The second egg is being held in a specially designed incubator and monitored by the Aquarium’s animal care team. To determine if the egg is fertile and observe the growth of the penguin chick before it hatches, aviculturists use a procedure called candling to take look inside the egg’s shell. After careful inspection, it is returned to the incubator which turns the egg regularly as the parents would in the nest. Once this egg hatches, the chick will be raised fully by Aquarium staffers.
“We decided to leave only one egg with the parents to ensure they focus their full attention on raising one chick,” said Bill Robles, Audubon Aquarium Curator of Birds. “While “Hubig” and “Ocio” have raised chicks before, it was not without complications. In 2020, “Zion” had to be pulled early from their nest for the penguin keeper staff to hand raise due to insufficient weight gains.”
African black footed penguins are an endangered species and are part of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums Species Survival Plan, a collaborative efforts among AZA-accredited facilities including Audubon Aquarium. The Aquarium is a founding member of AZA’s Saving Animals From Extinction (SAFE) program, which focuses the collective expertise within AZA-accredited facilities to save endangered species.
African penguins are a SAFE priority species due to their decreasing population in the wild, which has gone from 141,000 breeding pairs in 1956 to only about 25,000 today. AZA facilities have joined forces to develop various penguin conservation projects from improving oil spill disaster response protocols to constructing artificial nests in order to address declines in penguin populations caused by overfishing, habitat degradation, and oil spills.
Audubon’s penguins will have a newly refurbished exhibit when the Aquarium reopens this summer following its major renovation. To keep the birds happy and healthy, they will have expanded and relocated nesting areas as improved access to their water for swimming. While construction is done on their enclosure, the birds will remain at the Aquarium in another holding enclosure that provides them with swimming and other regular penguin behaviors.
The African penguins at the Aquarium serve as ambassadors for their species, teaching guests about the plight of this species in the wild. Guests will be able to see the penguins and the rest of Audubon Aquarium when it reopens this summer.