Penguin Chicks’ Arrival Gives Two First-time Moms An Extra Special Mother’s Day!

We are thrilled to officially announce the hatching of two female penguin chicks, one from each penguin species exhibited at the Aquarium!  The Aquarium’s 27th African penguin chick, a girl named Lemmie, and the second little blue chick ever to hatch at the Aquarium, also a female and yet to be named, are doing well and growing fast.


Newly-hatched African penguin, Lemmie (left) and little blue penguin girl, yet to be named, (right) pose for the camera.

Lemmie, named by Aquarium staff, hatched behind the scenes of the Penguin Island exhibit to first-time parents, Mouse and Cliff, on March 29, 2017. Here she is pictured with her proud mama, Mouse!


Lemmie and her mama, Mouse

The little blue chick hatched on Earth Day, April 22, to Sapphire and Bloke, first-time parents, in a nesting box on the Little Blue Beach exhibit at the Aquarium.  Mom Sapphire is here with her new little blue baby.


Little blue girl and her mama, Sapphire

Guests will have the opportunity to vote on the little blue chick’s name beginning this Mother’s Day weekend!  The name options are: Kirra, an Australian Aboriginal name meaning “leaf,” also means “to live”; Talia, an Australian Aboriginal name meaning “near water”; and Terra, the Latin name for “Earth.”  Starting on Saturday, May 13, visitors can vote for their favorite name option using spare change at a voting station located in the Main Lobby. All donations will benefit little blue penguins in the wild and the Manly little penguin colony restoration through the Foundation for National Parks & Wildlife.  The winning name will be revealed next month.

“Our team is thrilled to have two species of penguins hatch within just weeks of each other,” said Michele Pagel, Curator of Birds and Mammals at Adventure Aquarium.  “It’s been really fun watching each chick grow and develop.”

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The hatching of this African penguin chick is extra special as her parents, Cliff and Mouse, have been attempting to successfully breed for some time.

“It’s a victory for the entire team as well as mom and dad,” said Pagel.

Cliff and Mouse are one of the senior pairs in the Aquarium’s colony and have been highly recommended to breed by the Association of Zoos and Aquarium’s (AZA’s) Species Survival Plan (SSP).  AZA’s SSP is a program that encourages zoos and aquariums to work in concert to help ensure the survival of penguin species through a scientifically-controlled breeding program.

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“We were also fortunate to have our second little blue hatch just a few weeks later,” said Pagel.  “Both sets of parents have been very attentive to their little girls.  From day one, these moms and dads have been amazing.”

Both of the penguins’ genders were determined during early gender tests using DNA collected from inside the egg shell which resulted in female.  Blood tests will be conducted to confirm these results when the penguins are older.

Penguin chicks are very reliant on their parents when they first hatch.  Their eyes are closed, and their bodies are developing muscles that will eventually allow them to hold their head up and waddle. They also grow very quickly and, in just over a month, Lemmie has grown from just 64 grams (2.26 ounces, or almost the weight of a “C” size battery) to 2 kilograms (4 pounds, 4 ounces).  The little blue hatchling has grown from just 36 grams (1.27 ounces, or the weight of a 60 watt lightbulb) to 410 grams (14.5 ounces).

Just like the adult birds, penguin chicks eat about 25 to 30 small whole fish each day, including silversides, smelt, anchovies, trout and capelin. Lemmie and the little blue chick’s care were transferred from parents to AAQ keepers on Wednesday, May 10, 2017 at which point they were able to eat small but whole fish and were more physically developed and mobile.

“Young penguins need to learn how to eat from human hands, associate fish with the feed bucket and learn to be social with the keepers, which are all important steps to becoming part of the colony,” said Pagel. “Both chicks have transitioned beautifully into our care, quickly taking to keepers as their new caregivers.  We look forward to introducing them to our guests in the near future.”

Both chicks will remain behind the scenes to allow them time to develop waterproof plumage before being introduced to their respective colonies.

With the addition of Lemmie, the African penguin colony now consists of 35 birds, the largest colony in Adventure Aquarium history.  The colony is currently behind the scenes as renovations to the Penguin Island exhibit take place through mid-June.

The little blue penguin colony, which arrived at the Aquarium in December 2015, now consists of 12 penguins, six males and six females.  The chick will also remain behind the scenes to develop waterproof plumage and grow larger in size before being reintroduced to the colony on exhibit at Little Blue Beach.

Guests and visitors are encouraged to follow the Aquarium’s social media accounts to stay up to date on animal births, announcements and events.


UPDATE: Penguin Island Renovations Continue!

Happy Monday! We wanted to let you know that Penguin Island renovations are well underway for phase one and we’ve already seen great progress during weeks 1 and 2 of construction.


The Life Support System (LSS) update is complete, as far as some upgrades to the filtration system and plumbing.  Our engineers are doing additional work on the sand filters and heat exchangers to get them 100% ready to restart the system.  More upgrades will be added later in the year during phase two of construction.

Rockwork demo is finished and the installation of new rockwork forms for the shoreline is about three quarters complete.

Nest forms and freestanding boulder formations are starting to be placed in the exhibit as well.  The first layer of concrete is beginning to be applied on the forms.

Electric for the LSS will be finished today and early next week the electric subcontractor will continue with the installation of radiant heat for the deck.  (This will keep our penguins warm on colder days and keep the ice from forming on the deck during the winter!).

Our African penguin colony is doing well behind the scenes.  The birds are adjusting to their back of house space nicely.

We’ll provide additional updates as phase 1 continues.  You can get the latest updates on our website – follow along here!

Penguin Island Renovations Announced!

The home of the largest penguin colony in Adventure Aquarium’s history will undergo
important updates – and we couldn’t be more excited!


Penguin Island, the open-air exhibit located in Zone B, was built in 1998 and contains 17,000 gallons of water and a 20-foot underwater viewing window.  While there have been some maintenance projects done to the exhibit over the years, this will be the first major renovation for the main residence to AAQ’s popular penguins.

“As an AZA-accredited facility, the health and wellness of the animals in our care is always our top priority,” said Vince Nicoletti, Vice President and Executive Director of Adventure Aquarium. “As our African penguin colony continues to grow, we are eager to meet, and exceed, the needs of our birds by creating an environment that will allow them to flourish as a group.”

Penguin Island Before

Construction will take place in two phases.  Phase 1 began on Monday, April 24 with a focus on rockwork in the space but also some other awesome features:

  • The land area will be completely renovated to include custom textured rockwork specially-designed for good penguin foot health.
  • The beach landscape will also be reshaped to include additional zero-entry areas in and out of the pool (FYI – Zero-entry, also called beach entry, is an edge into a pool that gradually slopes from the land into the water, becoming deeper with each step, similar to a natural beach. Cool, right?).
  • The exhibit pool will switch from fresh to salt water which will more closely mimic their natural ocean environment.
  • A radiant heating system will also be installed beneath the land areas of the exhibit. The system will heat the decks during the winter months, ensuring the penguins are more comfortable in cooler temperatures, preventing snow and ice buildup and protecting the deck from cracking due to winter freeze and thaw cycles.
  • The back of house Life Support System (LSS) will be upgraded.
  • Nesting grottos, nooks and caves will be constructed throughout the exhibit, allowing the penguins to create a more diverse, complex environment and establish more territories.

“We believe these updates will be beneficial not only to our African penguins but our guests as well,” said Nicoletti. “The improvements should encourage the birds to be more active in the water and on land areas.”


These additional spaces will be beneficial to the growing colony. The Aquarium participates 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.

Along with plans for exhibit renovations, Adventure Aquarium has welcomed six adult penguins over the last year. The new additions to the colony came from three facilities: Male PJ from Maryland Zoo in Baltimore, MD; male Blythe and female Jumoke from Greensboro Science Center in Greensboro, NC; and males Marvel and Toad along with female Swoop from Seneca Park Zoo in Rochester, NY. With the addition of chicks from successful breeding seasons in recent years, the colony has grown to 34 birds – the largest colony in the history of Adventure Aquarium.

The penguins will be moved off exhibit to a behind the scenes location during both phases of construction but the Aquarium has plans to ensure they will still make appearances for guests.

Colony Pic

“Our African penguins are one of our most popular animals at the Aquarium, and we will make sure they can still visit with our guests,” said Nicoletti. “Additional up close opportunities will be available throughout the day at Discovery Deck in Zone B. Guests can also visit our little blue penguins in Zone A. Our popular Penguin Encounter, which allows guests a personal, up close experience will also be available on weekends, including Fridays beginning on Memorial Day weekend.”

Following completion of phase one construction in mid-June, the penguins will return to their exhibit and remain for the rest of the summer months.

During the second phase of construction, set to begin this fall, the back of house areas will be renovated and expanded upon:

  • The current back of house penguin holding building will be renovated and expanded upon, which will double the size of this behind the scenes area.
  • An indoor holding pool will be added.
  • New nesting areas will be built to accommodate the growing colony.

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Construction will continue through the winter months with an official reopening of the new and improved Penguin Island in the spring of 2018.

Interested in following along with our renovation project?  Head over to our Penguin Island Renovation Project page at for updates and more info.  You can also follow us on social media for the latest news and updates on all things AAQ!

Underwater African Penguin

See ya later!

12 Reasons to Visit AAQ this Spring Break


It’s finally here.  Kids (and teachers!) have off from school for some much-needed family time.  Thinking of spending some time visiting AAQ?  Great idea.  For starters, we have over 8,500 aquatic animals and hours of guaranteed family-fun.  Want more?  Here are just a few (well, actually 12) reasons you should visit us this Spring Break!


Hello there.


Our newest exhibit is OPEN and ready for you to journey to Piranha Falls for a unique multi-sensory experience of life on the Amazon River.  We virtually take you deep into the largest rainforest on Earth without leaving New Jersey (no passport required!). Watch our school of 120 glittering red-bellied piranha swim below two beautiful waterfalls – and prepare for the storm.


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Members enjoy the aquarium before the general public.  Take advantage of early access weekdays during Spring Break! The aquarium will open at 9:30 a.m. for Members.

Not a Member? Become one today and enjoy tons of benefits! 

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There’s even more chances to make friends with an African penguin! Now through April 23, meet a penguin up close and watch a LIVE penguin footprint painting session. PLUS, take home a penguin footprint masterpiece. Members receive 10% off – reserve your spot today!

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We have a jam-packed schedule for YOU throughout Spring Break! Have more opportunities to catch your favorite show or animal feed, including our Meet the Divers show (a fan + fish fave).



An Aquarium AND a 3D movie? YES.  During Spring Break, join the Octonauts as they travel deep down the Amazon River in search of a lost city and Kawzii’s long lost grandfather, Calico Jack. Free with admission!



There’s a new sea turtle resident in Ocean Realm: Our rehab and release loggerhead sea turtle, Ozzy! He made his debut in our largest exhibit and is excited for visitors. Come say hello to Ozzy during Spring Break!

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Stop by Little Blue Beach, where it’s always sunny and blue, to visit our first-ever little blue chick, Elanora, and little blue additions, Maremma and Kororaa.



You may have heard about our Fab Four African penguin chicks that hatched last December. They’re now on exhibit at Penguin Island! Come see our new juveniles: Amani, Suzie, Shida and Mazie as well as the entire thriving penguin colony!

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Darwin, our rehab and release sea turtle, is growing up fast! He’s been eating well and doing great with his enrichment sessions. Come see him in Sea Turtle Cove!



No one does sharks better! Marvel at the largest collection of sharks on the East Coast in a variety of ways during Spring Break:

  • Dare to Cross Shark Bridge – Walk just inches above our Shark Realm exhibit, home to dozens of sharks.
  • Shark Tunnel – Surround yourself with sharks as you walk through our 40-foot glass tunnel.
  • Shark & Ray Encounter – We’ve included even more Encounters during Spring Break. In addition to the weekends, on Fridays of Spring Break (April 14 and April 21) participate in our Shark & Ray Encounter at 10:00 a.m. or 1:00 p.m. Reserve your spot today – space is limited.



Our girls, Button and Genny, always enjoy a visit – especially during Spring Break when they get to meet and greet with tons of kiddos. Give a big hippo “hello” to our ladies! We’ve added extra feeds and enrichment sessions throughout Spring Break to keep Hippo Haven a hot spot all day-long.  And don’t miss out on Hippo Bedtime at 4:45pm daily in Hippo Haven when you help tuck the girls in for the evening!


Be adventurous this Spring Break and touch a shark, stingray, sea cucumber and more!

  • Touch-A-Shark – Be fearless and touch one of our exotic sharks at Touch-A-Shark, presented by Humana.
  • Stingray Beach Club – Come meet and touch several types of stingray species. You can even feed one during special, private stingray feeds throughout the day (check show guide for times).
  • Gill’s Grotto – Get your hands on with more than a dozen warm-water invertebrates including a variety of colorful sea stars and other wonderful species, such as the scarlet cleaner shrimp, sea apples and more!
  • Creature Feature – See and touch slick, slimy and all-around cool invertebrates, such as several species of exotic and colorful seastars, anemones and more.

Photo Credit: Instagram Fan @sara_nicole_miller


BONUS! Ha, thought we could stop at 12? NO WAY! Imagine the car ride home from your AAQ outing with the kids zonked out from the crazy awesome day of fish, family and fun. Take your own #sleepyshark pic and tag #AdventureAquarium – we’d love to see your little ones after visiting us!

With all these reasons, what are you waiting for?? Plan your trip and score extra Mom and Dad points ASAP.  Grab your tickets today. See you soon!

Ready for an all-new Adventure?


piranha_high resWant to journey deep into the heart of the Amazon rainforest where a school of 125 red-bellied piranha swim beneath a beautiful waterfall?  No need to pack your suitcase or grab your passport either!

We are so excited that our newest exhibit, Piranha Falls, an Amazon experience, will open this Friday, April 7.

Piranha Falls will offer our guests a unique multi-sensory experience of life on the Amazon River, virtually taking you deep into the largest rainforest on Earth without leaving New Jersey.

“The piranha are the stars of this exhibit but other residents like freshwater stingrays and other aquatic species represent the diversity of life in the Amazon River, which is the most diverse ecosystem on the planet,” said Vince Nicoletti, Executive Director and Vice President of Adventure Aquarium.  “Guests will also see, hear and feel the change in weather as an intense rainstorm moves in.”


Two beautiful waterfalls with a school of 120 glittering red-bellied piranha swimming below serves as the backdrop as a dynamic rainstorm approaches, featuring thunder, lightning and rain amidst a soundtrack of rainforest creatures weathering the storm.  Following the storm show, you’ll explore the true story of piranha and their role in the ecosystem of the Amazon River along with the indigenous people who call the Amazon their home.

“The Amazon River is the largest in the world and can receive over 10 feet of rainfall a year,” said Nicoletti.  “We couldn’t tell the story of the Amazon without showcasing these powerful rains and are excited to immerse our guests in a dramatic indoor rainstorm.”

The thunderous Amazon rainstorm is brought to life using a rain grid, over twenty lights, speakers and fans to create the immersive, family-friendly experience.  The two-story, 40-foot high exhibit contains 5,000 gallons of water.  A second waterfall was added, which rushes over a cliff and drops 10 feet down to the exhibit pool.  A tractor trailer filled with 300 new plants, 100 feet of vines, various plants and trees reaching up to 18 feet tall were also used to complete the look of Piranha Falls.

The exhibit will also feature a parrot enclosure adjacent to the main Piranha Falls exhibit space with birds native to South America, including Trinidad, a blue and gold macaw found in the Amazon rainforest.  Guests can continue their Amazon experience at Adventure Aquarium with the Octonauts Amazon Adventure 3D film, now included with admission.


Join us on an OCEARCH Expedition for Great White Sharks

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Humans have a fascination with sharks. They are often feared as man-eating creatures out hunting humans off the coastal shores (thanks to Steven Spielberg, his animatronic shark and two notes…da-na, da-na, da-na…).

But, in reality, sharks are some of the coolest creatures on the planet.  With a wide variety of species, with some species yet to be discovered in the vast ocean, in all shapes and sizes, we have a great deal to learn from these majestic, and misunderstood, animals.  One of the best known species of shark is the great white.  Again, thanks Mr. Spielberg for making them a part of popculture!   There are researchers interested in learning more about the species, which leads us to a great partnership with OCEARCH and Adventure Aquarium.

OCEARCH is a recognized world leader in collecting research and data to track and conduct biological studies of marine species such as great white and tiger sharks. OCEARCH goes on expeditions and tags sharks in the wild.  They are then able to track their movement through the ocean. They also work to help educate and conduct outreach for conservation.

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If you’re into sharks, you’ll definitely want to know all about OCEARCH and the work they’re doing – especially being able to track the tagged sharks’ travels up and down the coast of the New Jersey and all over the world (#ping).

Adventure Aquarium’s staff veterinarian, Dr. Mike Hyatt, had the awesome opportunity to join OCEARCH on a recent expedition.  The partnership between Adventure Aquarium and OCEARCH began when a colleague of Dr. Hyatt, the veterinarian for the North Carolina Aquariums, invited him to help out in a sand tiger shark expedition off of Wilmington, NC.

OCEARCH then invited him back for future expeditions as part of their science team – how cool!  Over the past year, Dr. Hyatt has participated in two more expeditions: Nantucket last September, and most recently, the Low Country expedition off of Hilton Head, SC.  Both of these expeditions were in search of great white sharks!

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On the most recent expedition in Hilton Head, Dr. Hyatt was able to help examine wild great whites (crazy awesome) but working with OCEARCH means a lot to him.

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“Tracking great white sharks to determine their natural history and biology with migration, reproduction and birthing is what made OCEARCH a global leader in providing scientific data and educational outreach,” said Hyatt.  “Collaborating with OCEARCH provides opportunities for shark conservation research not only for Adventure Aquarium, but for numerous other aquarium and academic researchers all at the same time.”

Being able to join these expeditions in the field is exciting but also important to the cause, as Dr. Hyatt’s role helps provide care to the animals as they are being tagged.  “My role on the expeditions is to provide veterinary oversight, assist in health assessments of the sharks via collecting blood, surgical placement of intracoelomic acoustic tags, and collect semen in mature males,” said Hyatt.  “My research interests on the expeditions include capture and handling stress physiology and reproductive physiology.”

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We’re excited to see how this partnership continues and look forward to Dr. Hyatt’s future expeditions with OCEARCH as well as what the data collected will reveal.

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OCEARCH and AAQ will continue to work together during our first-ever Shark Awareness Weekend being held this Memorial Day holiday weekend (May 27-29).  Similar to our other awareness weekends, we’ll celebrate all weekend-long and raise money to help the wild counterparts of our animal ambassadors.  Special programming, cool games and more awaits you this upcoming Shark Awareness Weekend so mark your calendar!

Until next time, have a good one Adventure Insider readers!

Little Blue Babes Hit the Beach


Adventure Aquarium’s newest little blue penguins have made their public debut!

The newest little blue penguins, two adult female little blues and the Aquarium’s first-ever little blue chick, are now permanent residents of the Little Blue Beach exhibit.

When you visit us, you can see 12-week-old Elanora (pictured below – isn’t she beautiful??).


Miss Elanora

In addition, Maremma and Kororaa, the adult female birds that arrived from New England Aquarium in December, have joined the colony.  The little blue bachelors, Indigo and Cobalt, also returned to the exhibit after spending time behind the scenes.

“Elanora, Maremma and Kororaa have acclimated nicely into the little blue colony,” said Michele Pagel, Curator of Birds and Mammals at Adventure Aquarium.  “We are excited for our guests to see the thriving colony together for the first time as well as wait for the potential pairings of the new females with our eligible bachelors.”


Elanora, named by a fan vote on, hatched inside a nesting box to first-time parents, Sheila and Goose, on the Little Blue Beach exhibit on December 3, 2016.  Maremma, nine-months-old, and Kororaa, eight-years-old, arrived from New England Aquarium on December 14, 2016.  All three female birds stayed behind the scenes until they were ready to join the colony.

Guests can identify the new additions by their special wing bands: Elanora (#9), Maremma (#10) and Kororaa (#11).  With these little blues moving on exhibit, the colony now consists of six males and five females.