9 reasons we ❤️‍ penguins

In honor of Mother’s Day, we’re throwing the spotlight on Adventure Aquarium’s African penguin colony during our Mother’s Day Penguin Weekend, May 9 & 10. African penguins have much in common with us human counterparts; they mate for life and make great parents – each sharing mutual roles in the incubation of their offspring. While there’s much to love about these endangered sea birds, here are 9 of our most favorite reasons:

9 Reasons we ❤️‍ Penguins

Big Announcement: 20th penguin chick hatched at Adventure Aquarium!

Adventure Aquarium's 20th Chick

We’re thrilled to announce that our newest African penguin chick hatched on March 2 to parents Minnie and Kamikaze. The chick weighed 51 grams at hatching, and since then has already gained 524 grams, making its weight this morning a healthy 575 grams. And we’re happy to report that the chick is strong and healthy, and very vocal.

A growing chick!

A growing chick!

The team does a daily check up!

The team performs a daily check up!

This chick has the distinction of being the 20th chick successfully hatched here at Adventure Aquarium, and is a very important part of our continued participation in the AZA African Penguin Species Survival Program (SSP). We are all very proud of our breeding program of this endangered species here at Adventure Aquarium, and can’t help but be truly excited for every new chick.

Meet the 20th chick hatched at Adventure Aquarium!

Meet the 20th chick hatched at Adventure Aquarium!

Minnie and Kamikaze will continue to raise the chick behind the scenes at Penguin Island, and in a few months our team here will begin the process of starting to introduce the chick to the exhibit and the other penguins, including its five siblings here at Adventure Aquarium – Jack, Myer, Jambo, Saba and Cornelius.


Curator Michele Pagel with the newest addition to the Adventure Aquarium family

Curator Michele Pagel with the newest addition to the Adventure Aquarium family

By: Michele Pagel, Curator Birds & Mammals

Adventure Aquarium welcomes its newest penguin chick! Meet 4-day old “Goblin”

Goblin3We’re excited to introduce to you the newest addition to our growing penguin colony! Meet tiny chick “Goblin” who hatched overnight on October 17 to parents Jack and Diane.


Weighing in at 65 grams (size of a golf ball) at birth, Goblin is doing really well: strong, healthy, very vocal and growing quickly as African penguin chicks do.  In fact, during today’s weigh-in, he doubled his size, measuring in at 146 grams!

Goblin during today's weigh-in

Goblin during today’s weigh-in

Goblin will continue to thrive under the watchful eyes of its penguin parents Jack and Diane, and under the supervision of our biologists and veterinary staff.  Penguin chicks typically take 38-42 days to hatch out of their eggs after they are laid. During an incubation period, both parents will take turns sitting on the egg. After the chick hatches, mom and dad take turns protecting, feeding and keeping the chick warm 2 to 3 days at a time.




Jack and Diane will continue to raise Goblin behind the scenes at Penguin Island, and in a few months will begin the process of starting to be introduced to the exhibit and the other penguins. So stay tuned for updates!

Fun Facts:

  • Goblin is the fourth hatchling for Jack (12 years old) and Diane (14 years old), already parents to 6-year-old Little Ditty, and 1-year-olds Pumpkin and Patch. Penguin watchers may recall that it was just about a year ago to this date that Jack and Diane welcomed penguin chicks Pumpkin and Patch!
  • Coincidentally, Goblin also shares the same birthday as two of our other penguins – Liberty (the very first chick to hatch here at Adventure Aquarium) and Meadow!
  • Biologists won’t know Goblin’s gender until a few months after a blood draw successfully determines whether we have a ‘he’ or ‘she.’
  • Jack and Diane were paired back in 2007 through the Association of Zoos and Aquarium’s (AZA’s) African penguin Species Survival Plan (SSP), a program that encourages zoos and aquariums to work together to help ensure the survival of African Penguins through a scientifically-controlled breeding program.
  • Since we began working with the program in 1998, Adventure Aquarium has successfully bred and raised nineteen African Black-Footed Penguin chicks (Goblin included!)

Go behind the scenes with some of the animal ‘artists’ at Adventure Aquarium

If you’ve ever participated in one of our penguin encounters or have seen some of their artwork in the gift shop, you know that our African penguins are very good artists. However, have you ever wondered why our penguins paint? Or, what other animals at Adventure Aquarium have taken their turn with paint and canvas? If so this blog entry will answer those questions and have some super cute photos of animals putting paint to canvas!

Minnie Painting with Jamie

Jamie paints with African penguin (and artist!) Minnie

The main reason we paint with our animals is for their enrichment (providing something new or different for the animal to mentally stimulate them or just simply have a different activity in their day). Part of the animals’ benefit through painting is actually the process of learning how to paint. Another reason we paint with the animals is because it’s fun for us too! We can use that time to further bond with the animal or to enhance guest experience in the case of the penguins painting during the encounter programs.

In order to train the penguins to paint, they must first be comfortable being handled by the trainers and taking a bath in the sink afterwards. (All penguins need clean feet before going back on exhibit and some even splatter paint up their bellies!) The next step is to introduce the penguins to the paint tray and canvas and teach them to walk across it in a straight line, although some of our penguins seem to prefer walking in circles across the canvas instead!

Minnie finishes her painting

Minnie finishes her painting

Once comfortable with the routine, the penguins start painting. Eleven penguins of our colony have passed art school and make footprint paintings for our guests and other events. Some of the penguin artwork has helped raise money for their fellow endangered species in the wild during Adventure Aquarium’s African Penguin Awareness Weekend. This is yet another benefit for training the penguins to put paint to canvas.

Another species in the “foot painter” group at Adventure Aquarium is the cape porcupine, brothers Julian and Vince. Both porcupines already knew how to target to a pole and follow it around so the trainers added in the new behaviors of stepping in paint and walking across a canvas. 

Vince is target trained to walk through paint onto canvas.

Vince is target trained to walk through paint onto canvas.

Rule #1 of painting - always clean up afterwards! Vince walks through a foot bath to rinse off his feet.

Rule #1 of painting – always clean up afterwards! Vince walks through a foot bath to rinse off his feet.

And just like the penguins, our porcupines have bath time afterwards too. In order to rinse off their feet, the boys were trained to walk through a tray of water.

Combining both old and new behaviors in a series is great mental stimulation for the porcupines. It also helps the process when they get their favorite treat, banana slices and peas, as their reward. Just look at that happy face!

You may not have guessed our last big painters, but believe it or not, our trainers have actually taught hippos Button and Genny to paint too! Instead of making footprint art, these girls paint with their muzzle and whiskers. Just like training the porcupines, our hippos started out with behaviors they already knew – such as resting their head on ballards, targeting, and “touch,” a cue given to let the girls know when they will be touched. Then the trainers added to the “touch” behavior by applying paint to the hippo’s muzzle.

hippo painting_484x252


Once the paint is applied the hippo can target to the canvas, ending with a unique whiskered face print! Button and Genny even look forward to the clean-up and enjoy being sprayed off with the hose. Also like the porcupines, the girls are quite excited to work for treats, which are given after the painting is made to avoid food bits in their art.

Hope you enjoyed seeing some of our artists in action! 

By: Jamie Hogan, Biologist – Birds & Mammals

Learn more about some of the incredible, endangered species at Adventure Aquarium

Today is Endangered Species Day, a time for people of all ages to learn about endangered species and how everyday actions can be taken to protect them. Since the Endangered Species Act was passed in 1973, great strides have been made in efforts to protect endangered and threatened species, but there is much more to be done. The more we learn about the delicate balance of ecosystems, the clearer it becomes how important it is to protect even the tiniest creatures from extinction. Adventure Aquarium is proud to be a safe home to many species that are increasingly threatened in the wild due to human interference.

“While many efforts have been made across the board to protect endangered species, counteracting the destruction of necessary habitats and the decline of certain threatened species in the wild often seems an impossible task,” said Jen Duffy, Senior Biologist. “Adventure Aquarium is proud to do our part to protect endangered species both through rehabilitation and release programs, and participation in the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ Species Survival Programs (SSP).  We simply can’t afford to give up on this fight, for the future of the many species threatened by human behavior and the future of our children.”

Adventure Aquarium is committed to protecting endangered species by teaching guests of all ages the importance of conservation and each animal’s role in the overall ecosystem. By participating in SSPs—captive breeding and management programs that try to preserve species that are endangered in the wild—we’re able to contribute to field conservation efforts and species recovery. Get to know a few of our endangered species:

African Penguins

AAQ Penguins2

Adult African penguins on Penguin Island at Adventure Aquarium

Some of our most popular residents are part of an SSP: the adorable African black-footed penguins, including recent hatchlings Pumpkin, Patch, Saba and Cornelius. In the wild, African penguin populations have drastically plummeted, with 40 percent of the population affected by water pollution. Since 1998, the Aquarium has successfully bred and raised nineteen African black-footed penguin chicks, while the population has decreased from 200,000 to only 55,000 in the wild. If this steep decline is not halted, the African penguin could be extinct within 15-years.

Loggerhead Sea Turtles

Tortuga as a tiny hatchling

Rescue and Rehab Loggerhead sea turtle Tortuga, as a tiny hatchling

We also work to help protect declining Loggerhead sea turtle populations by partnering with the North Carolina Aquarium’s Loggerhead Sea Turtle Loan Program. Once intensively hunted for their meat and eggs, Loggerheads are now threatened by fishing gear that entangles them and beach development that takes away nesting sites. Sea turtle hatchlings are often too weak to dig their way out to the ocean or confused by artificial light sources that they mistake for the sun. Adventure Aquarium takes in these tiny turtles to rehabilitate them and release them in to the ocean once they reach a healthy adult weight. One of these success stories is Tortuga, who only weighed in at 0.2 pounds when he arrived at Adventure Aquarium, and is now well on his way toward a potential release date of fall 2014.

Orinoco Crocodiles

Orinoco crocodiles Sofia and Lola

Orinoco crocodiles Sofia and Lola

Orinoco crocodiles are a critically endangered species whose numbers dwindled so considerably in the last century that the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has estimated their wild population at only 250-1,500. It’s also rare to see them in zoos and aquariums. Their presence at Adventure Aquarium marks the first time they have been exhibited in the Northeast.


Bizarre-looking, endangered axolotls

Bizarre-looking, endangered axolotls

The axolotl is an extraordinary little amphibious creature, native to central Mexico. Known for their incredible ability to completely regenerate entire limbs—a unique feature that has made them important for scientific research, they seem to have disappeared from the wild completely. Urbanization of the lakes where they live in Mexico has threatened wild axolotl populations so severely that a four-month long search in 2013 turned up no surviving individuals.

These incredible animals all deserve better. Join us for a visit to learn more about these and more endangered creatures that call Adventure Aquarium home and how you can help to protect them. Find out more at www.AdventureAquarium.com.

Penguin keeper Chris Felts sheds light on those ‘other kinds of eggs’

By: Chris Felts

Chris is a biologist on the Birds & Mammals team at Adventure Aquarium, and works directly with our African penguins. His study on penguin egg data was recently published in the “Penguin Conservation – Penguin Taxon Advisory Group Newsletter.”

Happy Easter everyone! We here at Adventure Aquarium appreciate chocolate Easter eggs just as much as anybody (and caramel eggs and peanut butter eggs and malted milk balls…) but being penguin biologists we’ve also got a big interest in penguin eggs and little baby chicks. Thankfully we don’t have to wait for the Easter Bunny to deliver because we’ve got an entire colony of African Penguins that lay eggs all year round!

As a facility that participates in the African Penguin SSP (that’s Species Survival Plan), we’re very curious about when and how often our penguins lay eggs, as well as the size of the eggs that are produced. So far we’ve found that our colony lays eggs that weigh about 90 grams or so, or a little over 3 ounces.

Chris shows off a sample penguin egg

Chris shows off a sample penguin egg

Usually our penguins will lay two eggs in a set, the second 3 or 4 days after the first. As for how often our penguins lay, we’ve found that it varies pretty wildly for each bird. Miss Minnie (#5) likes spring and early winter and might lay 3 different sets of eggs in a single year! Old lady Sheridan (#6) on the other hand, seems to lay whenever she wants but not all that often. As you can tell, each of our penguins is very unique and it took a lot of work to determine what their individual laying patterns were. Thankfully, now that we’ve completed our investigations, we can use this information to help our colony raise as many penguin chicks as possible, in ways you might not expect.

egg hatching

For example, sometimes a penguin pair may be a little inexperienced on how to properly care for their egg or chick and that’s where it’s our job to help them out. Since we know when our other penguins are most likely to want to raise eggs, sometimes we’ll let a more experienced pair of penguins take care of eggs laid by a pair that’s not really certain what to do. A short 42 days later and those adoptive parents will be raising a newborn chick, adorably cute and hungry for fish!

Day old Adventure Aquarium chick

Day old Adventure Aquarium chick Saba, with unhatched Cornelius in the background

So rest assured that the penguin biologists of Adventure Aquarium and the African Penguins in our care remain ever vigilant and on the lookout for new penguin eggs, just as you and yours will be on the hunt for Easter eggs this holiday.

Happy Easter! Enjoy these photos and video of our penguins enjoying some particularly timely enrichment – exploring and “hunting” for plastic Easter eggs on Penguin Island:





And the adorable video of the hunt, below:


An Update with Penguin Chicks ‘Pumpkin’ and ‘Patch’

It’s time to check in with African Penguin chicks Pumpkin and Patch, who hatched at the Aquarium back in October! Aside from the fact that they’re completely adorable, one thing is clear when looking at them: just how quickly they’ve grown! It literally seems like yesterday that they were the size of a golf ball, and look at them now.

Penguin Chicks Pumpkin and Patch

During their most recent checkup this morning, 42-day old Pumpkin weighed in at a healthy 4.65 pounds. And little (or not so little…) Patch is gaining on him! At 38 days old, Patch is now weighing in at 4.40 pounds.

Penguin Chicks Pumpkin and Patch

The two are becoming so identical that our biologists decided to paint Pumpkin’s toes with nail polish (orange, of course!) – A perfectly safe practice common in zoos and aquariums to allow biologists to quickly differentiate between animals.

Penguin Chicks Pumpkin and Patch

The entire growth process for African Penguins is typically only 2-3 months, although it takes them over a year until they undergo their complete molt and reveal the common African Penguin markings. Our other ‘newborn’ Cassie – born last January – still has her juvenile gray feathers. It won’t be till about springtime that she receives her new coloration. 

Our (almost a year old!) Penguin Cassie

Our (almost a year old!) Penguin Cassie

Another big milestone was recently reached when Pumpkin and Patch graduated to whole foods! That’s right: they’re now both eating fish all on their own – no more of the regurgitated stuff! Only delicious capelin to digest.

Both Pumpkin and Patch seem to be thriving in each others’ company. Although their thick, fluffy, super-soft down feathers allow them to thermoregulate their body temperatures, they still continue to huddle close to each other in their nest and keep each other extra warm and cozy.

Penguin Chicks Pumpkin and Patch

What milestones will be reached next week?! Be sure to follow our blog as we share ongoing updates on these brand new additions!