Featured Image Credit: ABC Action News
By Alice Morris
The Florida Aquarium and the Lowry Park Zoo in Tampa, Florida are teaming up to help save the critically endangered African penguin.
With help from the Association of Zoos and Aquarium’s Species Survival Plan (SSP) and the Saving Animals from Extinction (S.A.F.E.) program, the institutions hope to give these adorable critters a better chance at survival by playing matchmaker.
Thumbelina, a female penguin at the Tampa Lowry Park Zoo, was recently introduced to Rocky, an 8-year-old male. Rocky was transported to the zoo in Tampa where the two were introduced. Staff at the zoo monitored the pair’s interactions, hoping to see the two bond. From the looks of it, there were some definite sparks flying!
Dr. Larry Killmar, Chief Zoological Office at the zoo said that they are “proud to be working to preserve a species like the African Penguin, which faces a number of threats in the wild.”
African penguins reach sexual maturity around the age of four and they mate for life. Females lay one or two eggs, which the male and female take turns incubating.
“It is our hope that these amazing animals’ offspring inspire guests to help us protect this critically endangered species for many generations to come,” said Margo McKnight, the Florida Aquarium’s Senior Vice President of Conservation, Science, and Research.
According to the zoo’s website, the Lowry Park Zoo is currently the only AZA-accredited institution in Florida with a breeding colony of African penguins. The zoo’s first chick hatched in 2011 and eight more chicks have hatched in just the past three years.
Find out how you can help save the African penguin here.