SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (AP) — An Arizona aquarium is celebrating the hatching of three endangered African penguin chicks, saying the tiny additions are genetically valuable as zoos and aquariums around the world work to ensure the species’ survival through breeding programs and conservation efforts.
Officials at OdySea Aquarium made the announcement Friday, posting video of the fuzzy birds on social media. They hatched a few weeks ago and will remain behind the scenes with their parents until they’re ready for a public appearance.
African penguins have suffered a massive population decline over the decades and are listed as endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
So any successful hatching is cause for celebration, said Jess Peranteau, director of animal care and education at the aquarium.
“As the population of the African penguin continues to rapidly decline — down 23% in the past two years alone — OdySea Aquarium remains committed to the survival of the species in partnership with other Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ accredited facilities,” Peranteau said in a statement.
The breeding program established by the association aims to build up a viable genetic pool for the species.
Officials say two of the three new chicks in Scottsdale are clutch-mates, born to parents Mojo and Lemieux — a power couple of sorts that was selected for pairing as part of the breeding program. The third chick was born to first-time parents Bubbles and Weasley.
Aquarium workers will regularly conduct “chick checks,” brief exams to monitor their growth and development and ensure they are hitting all necessary milestones.
The three chicks have yet to be named, and their sex has not yet been determined. For now they’re known by their numbers, 42, 43 and 44.
In all, OdySea Aquarium now has 40 African penguins and has recorded 13 successful hatchings.
The aquarium bills itself as the largest in the Southwest.