The San Francisco science museum has witnessed a remarkable conservation effort with the hatching of 10 African penguin chicks within a little over a year. This marks a significant milestone in protecting the endangered bird, which has seen its population decline due to threats such as overfishing, habitat degradation, and oil spills.
The penguins began hatching in November 2022, breaking a four-year drought, and continued through January of this year. The California Academy of Sciences revealed that African penguins have dropped to 9,000 breeding pairs in the wild, highlighting the urgent need for conservation efforts.
Brenda Melton, the director of animal care and well-being at the museum’s Steinhart Aquarium, expressed that every chick welcomed helps to strengthen the genetics and overall population of the species in human care. For the first three weeks of their lives, the chicks are cared for by their penguin parents. Following this, they attend “fish school”, a program that teaches them how to swim and eat fish provided by biologists. Once they are ready, they are introduced to the colony. The 21 penguins at the museum are reported to have distinct personalities and are identifiable by their arm bands.
Partners Stanlee and Bernie, who both like to bray, are responsible for producing four of the 10 chicks. The oldest chick is named Fyn, in reference to a type of vegetation found on the southern tip of Africa. Fyn is an older sister to Nelson and Alice, who were both hatched in November. The youngest chick was hatched on January 12th and its sex has not yet been determined. In captivity, African penguins can live longer than 27 years.
The hatching of these chicks marks a significant step towards protecting this endangered species from extinction. With continued conservation efforts and care from institutions like the San Francisco science museum, we can hope for a brighter future for African penguins in both their natural habitats and captivity alike.