(March 29, 2012) –
The world’s largest aquarium is thrilled to announce the birth of two African penguin chicks. The young sea birds, whose genders are unknown at this time, hatched within two weeks of each other in early January and have been hand-reared behind-the-scenes by Aquarium animal training and veterinary staff members since hatching. African penguins are listed as endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List.
Georgia Aquarium is a participating member of the African penguin Species Survival Plan (SSP), which provides breeding pair recommendations for participating Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) institutions. The AZA’s SSP has the goal of maintaining or increasing genetic diversity, thus ensuring the longevity and sustainability of the species in human care. SSP programs significantly contribute to field conservation efforts, species recovery, veterinary care for wildlife disease issues, establishment of assurance populations, public education, as well as many species-focused conservation efforts. There are currently more than 300 SSP Programs, each managed by their corresponding Taxon Advisory Groups (TAGs), within AZA.
Many of Georgia Aquarium’s penguins are genetically valuable to the collection of African penguins in AZA institutions because they are not offspring of current birds in the population, and have yet to produce offspring of their own. Therefore, the SSP has recommended that Georgia Aquarium breed many of these genetically valuable birds to further diversify the gene pools of the North American population of African penguins.
“Georgia Aquarium is committed to conserving and protecting our aquatic world and the species that inhabit it, including the endangered African penguin,” said Billy Hurley, chief zoological officer and senior vice president of zoological operations, Georgia Aquarium. “As leaders in aquatic animal care, conservation and research, we are very proud to welcome our first-ever African penguin chicks to our family at Georgia Aquarium. We will continue our commitment of helping to create sustainable animal populations both in the wild as well as in human care for the benefit of present and future generations."
In 2010, Georgia Aquarium redesigned the African penguin habitat in the Georgia-Pacific Cold Water Quest gallery in order to create an environment that closely mimics their natural environment, including seasonal variations in light duration and intensity, which helps to promote natural breeding cycles within the colony. The exhibit redesign was successful as the Aquarium celebrates the birth of these sea birds. Since hatching, the chicks have gone through considerable changes in a short amount of time. Born with fluffy down feathers, the penguin chicks are currently fledging -- a process where they lose their down feathers and begin growing juvenile plumage. After becoming fully fledged, the chicks will be “waterproof” and the animal care and training team will begin introducing the animals to water so they can learn to swim in a special pool away from the colony. Once they are stronger swimmers, the animal care and training team will gradually introduce the chicks to the penguin colony and into the penguin habitat. Animal care and training team members will continue to hand-rear the animals behind-the-scenes. The chicks will serve as animal ambassadors in the Aquarium’s outreach programs, helping to raise awareness and educate guests about threats penguins face in the wild.
For more information on the Aquarium’sAfrican penguins or to purchase the all-new Total Ticket, please visit www.georgiaaquarium.org or call 404-581-4000.
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ABOUT GEORGIA AQUARIUM
Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta, Georgia, is the world’s largest with more than 10 million gallons of water and the largest collection of aquatic animals. The mission of Georgia Aquarium is to be an entertaining, educational and scientific institution featuring exhibits and programs of the highest standards; offering engaging and exciting guest experiences promoting the conservation of aquatic biodiversity throughout the world. Georgia Aquarium is an accredited member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums and the Alliance of Marine Mammal Parks and Aquariums. For additional information, visit www.georgiaaquarium.org.