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Brookfield Zoo fostering endangered penguin chicks to help grow population

Published: Wednesday, April 2, 2014 1:42 p.m. CDT • Updated: Tuesday, July 29, 2014 9:53 p.m. CDT
Caption
(Photo provided by the Chicago Zoological Society)
A 7-day-old Humboldt penguin chick at Brookfield Zoo has a weigh in during a wellness check.

BROOKFIELD – In an effort to grow the population of Humboldt penguins in the nation's zoos – one of the world's most endangered species – the Brookfield Zoo is lending a hand and helping to foster penguin chicks at the zoo's penguin habitat.

Animal care staff for the Chicago Zoological Society, which runs the Brookfield Zoo, recently agreed to take two Humboldt penguin eggs into their care. One chick has already hatched, and is being fostered by the zoo's adult Humboldt penguins, according to a news release.

The zoo came to be in possession of one egg in January after a penguin at the Columbus Zoo laid an egg. Due to the Arctic blast that swept through Ohio, the penguin and her mate had difficulties keeping the egg warm, zoo officials said in the release. The coordinator of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ Humboldt Penguin Species Survival Plan recommended the transfer of the egg to Brookfield Zoo, so that a foster pair could continue the incubation process and rear the chick.

At Brookfield Zoo, two 10-year-old Humboldt penguins named Salsa and Ceviche were in the process of incubating an egg, but it was infertile. To alleviate unnecessary stress on Salsa, staff allowed her to complete the natural incubation cycle, but removed the infertile egg and replaced it with a fake egg. When the egg from Columbus Zoo arrived, the fake egg was removed and replaced with the new fertile egg, which resulted in a hatched chick on Feb. 20.

Guests visiting Brookfield Zoo’s Living Coast exhibit may be able to see the Columbus Zoo chick as he is beginning to peek out from the nestbox, according to the release.

At Milwaukee County Zoo, a penguin pair is currently incubating two eggs. Humboldt penguins rarely are successful at raising two chicks simultaneously, zoo officials said. To increase the chance of both chicks surviving, one will be raised by its parents at Milwaukee and the other will be raised by foster parents at Brookfield Zoo. A transfer date for the egg is still being determined.

Native to the coasts of Peru and Chile in South America, Humboldt penguin population numbers once totaled an estimated hundreds of thousands of animals during the 1800s. However, due to threats from overfishing, entanglement in fishing nets, fishing with dynamite and human disturbance, the total population is now estimated to be less than 50,000.

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