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A feathered resident of the Brookfield Zoo will be celebrating its first birthday this February! An endangered Humboldt penguin hatched on February 12, 2018 and is now swimming with the Zoo colony. Watch a video of the chick just days old below!
The first couple of weeks meant round-the-clock care and monitoring by Zoo staff, ensuring the chick was getting just the right amount of food each day. With a proper diet, penguin chicks molt out of their downy fluff in just two months. The smooth feathers left behind make the penguin much more hydrodynamic as they spread their flippers beneath the waves.
Like all the penguins at the Brookfield zoo, the new addition auditioned for a spot in their penguin encounter. This program allows guests to interact with the penguins on the human side of their habitat, only approaching for photos or fish if they’re feeling up for it. Each individual penguin is given a shot at the spotlight, and only those that love the limelight end up on the cast list. The more reserved penguins stay full-time in their rocky Zoo habitat, which is just fine with them!
Wild Humboldts are found only in Peru and Chile. While these penguins face extinction, many groups, authorities, and organizations are working to save the species. the Chilean government canned a multi-billion dollar mining project last year to preserve critical Humboldt nesting areas. There are also research projects that seek to rebuild the guano (poop) layer, vital to nesting success, lost to fertilizer mining. The best way to add guano to the site? Add penguins! This research project based out of the Milwaukee County Zoo installed artificial domes to encourage penguins to lay eggs in their historic nesting places.
Visiting zoos and aquariums like the Brookfield Zoo helps support conservation and captive breeding programs, both essential to the success of endangered species. Read more about successful breeding programs here, and check out the Brookfield Zoo’s Humboldt Penguin page to learn more about these endangered birds.