We are proud to announce the birth of 20th African Penguin Chick! The new addition “Topper,” a Christmas Eve Baby, is healthy and doing well!
Topper’s parents Minnie and Kamikaze welcomed the chick on December 24, 2015. The bird was given that name in honor of its birthday and named after the penguin featured in the movie Santa Claus is Coming to Town.
This is the ninth hatchling for proud mom and dad, Minnie and Kamikaze, who have been at the Aquarium since 1998 and are one of the facility’s original pairs. The Aquarium continues to participate in the Association of Zoos and Aquarium’s (AZA’s) African penguin Species Survival Plan (SSP), a program that encourages zoos and aquariums to work in concert to help ensure the survival of African penguins through a scientifically-controlled breeding program. Since it began working with the program in 1998, the Aquarium has successfully bred and raised 20 African penguin chicks.
Topper, whose gender is unknown, is doing well and growing fast. When the chick first hatched approximately seven weeks ago, it weighed less than two ounces, the approximate weight and size of a golf ball, but has grown to weigh over five pounds. At just one month old, the new addition was actually heavier in weight than the largest Little Blue penguin at the Aquarium.
“We’re thrilled to report that this African penguin chick is very strong,” said Michele Pagel, Curator, Birds & Mammals, who has overseen the African penguin population since 1998. “It is gaining weight by leaps and bounds, vocalizing and has a hearty appetite and is very active.”
Topper is now eating whole fish just like the adult birds including silversides, smelt, anchovies, trout and capelin. The young penguin usually eats more than some of the adults at about 15-20 fish per day. Topper’s care was transferred from its parents to AAQ keepers on January 25 at which point it was able to eat small but whole fish and was standing up on its own. “It is really important for our staff to take over care so the penguin chick can learn how to be a penguin here at the Aquarium,” said Pagel. “Learning how to eat from human hands, associate fish with the feed bucket and learn to be social with the keepers are all important steps to becoming part of the colony.”
Much like human newborn babies, when chicks are first hatched, they are very dependent on their parents. Their eyes are closed, and their bodies are developing muscles that will eventually allow them to hold their head up and walk (or waddle). The only difference is that penguin growth happens in warp-speed. In fact, in a year, Topper will be the size of a fully grown African Penguin.
“Adventure Aquarium visitors will be able to start seeing the adorable Topper up close and in person this month following the African penguin feeds,” said Pagel. “Once it has grown large enough to assimilate with the other residents of the Aquarium’s Penguin Island exhibit, the chick will join the rest of the colony on exhibit.”