BOSTON (WHDH) - The New England Aquarium is celebrating the arrival of an African penguin chick who hatched behind the scenes three weeks ago.

The chick, born to parents Malgas II and Demersus III, came into the world on March 23 and has been rapidly growing – it is now 16 times its hatch weight. It is the first chick to join the penguin colony since 2019.

Aquarium taffers say they are pleased with the chick’s progress so far, but there are still many milestones to go. In the next few weeks, they will be transitioning the bird to hand feeding and helping it become accustomed to the daily routine of other penguins in the colony.

“Raising a penguin chick is no easy feat for us, or its parents! Months of planning, preparation, and hard work go into ensuring each chick has the best chance for success,” said Eric Fox, Assistant Curator of Penguins. “It has been a while since we have had a new chick join our colony, so it is a huge win for our team and for this endangered species.”

Courtesy of New England Aquarium

Once the chick’s waterproof feathers come in, it will receive a full physical exam and blood test to determine its sex before joining the rest of the penguin colony on exhibit, likely in June, the aquarium says. At that point, staffers will also give it a name with an educational or conservation tie.

The New England Aquarium participates in the African Penguin Species Survival Plan through the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), which supports field conservation efforts and a breeding program to help promote a sustainable future for these penguins.

According to the aquarium, breeding gives the penguins a chance to go through an important life stage – pair-bonding, nesting, breeding, and rearing.

“Having a breeding season has helped advance our knowledge of animal wellbeing and the impact breeding can have on an animal’s lived experience,” said Kristen Van Oss, Curator of Pinnipeds and Penguins. 

Courtesy of New England Aquarium

The chick comes from a long line of African penguins at the Aquarium. Its great-grandmother is Deco, a 41-year-old penguin who hatched at the Aquarium in 1981. She has far exceeded the life expectancy of African penguins, which usually live 10 to 15 years in the wild, and is currently the oldest African penguin at the aquarium and in the AZA’s Species Survival Plan.

African penguins are an endangered species. Their colonies along the coasts of South Africa and Namibia are threatened by the depletion of food from overfishing, climate change, and pollution. Over the last 30 years, the number of African penguins breeding in South Africa has declined by 73 percent from 42,500 breeding pairs in 1991 to 10,400 pairs in 2021.

To learn more about the AZA’s efforts to keep the African penguin from going extinct, click here. More information on the aquarium’s new chick and its parents is available on the New England Aquarium Blog.

(Copyright (c) 2024 Sunbeam Television. The Associated Press contributed to this report. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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