Monday, June 18 , 2018, 12:13 pm | Fair 65º


Rare Penguin Chick Born at Santa Barbara Zoo

Humboldt penguin chick hatched in June at the zoo is first at Crawford Family Penguin House

The first Humboldt penguin ever hatched at the Santa Barbara Zoo emerged from its shell June 8, was foster-reared on exhibit at the Crawford Family Penguin House and is now housed off-exhibit until it learns to swim, publicists for the zoo announced Friday.

Humboldt penguins are listed as vulnerable in their native habitat along the Pacific coast of South America, from Peru to Chile.

Only two of the zoo’s 15 adult Humboldt penguins have a recommendation to breed under the Species Survival Plan of the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA). The pair arrived at the zoo last year from Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle, local zoo officials said. The rest of the flock’s genes are well represented in the overall captive population; they will not reproduce.

“This pair had laid fertile eggs in the past, but had never been successful in rearing their young,” said Sheri Horiszny, the Santa Barbara Zoo’s animal programs director. “We researched the histories of all of our penguins to find one with past parenting success. We have a male that had successfully fostered eggs before, and we placed the egg with him and his partner, also a male. The foster pair were dedicated incubators, and fed the chick well.”

The chick, whose sex has not yet been determined, weighed 90 grams the day after hatch, weighed 501 grams on June 18, and was 1,300 grams Tuesday.

The zoo’s animal care staff has taken over care of the chick for the next few weeks until it is old enough to swim. The chick will be off-exhibit, behind-the-scenes until that time. Just as wild birds “fledge” — take their first flight — penguins take their first swim.

“This is the age when the chick would naturally begin to gain independence in the wild,” Horiszny said. “We want to make sure the chick grows its waterproof feathers and can swim well before it has access to the big pool in the exhibit.”

The Crawford Family Penguin House offers both above-ground and underwater viewing of these active birds. The exhibit, featuring a 5,670 cubic foot pool, opened in June 2006. There are a total of 15 adults birds on view.

This species of penguins like it “Chile, not chilly,” as they hail from coastal desert regions along the Pacific Coast of South America from Peru to Chile. This species is considered vulnerable by the World Conservation Union, which puts the total population at around 12,000 breeding pairs.

The Santa Barbara Zoo, 500 Niños Drive, is open daily from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. General admission is $11 for adults, $9 for children 2-12 and seniors 60+, and children under 2 are free. Parking is $4. Click here for more information.

— Julia McHugh is a publicist for the Santa Barbara Zoo.


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