One of Two Penguin Chicks is Dead
January 19, 2011
The younger of two new black-footed penguin chicks at the Monterey Bay Aquarium died on Tuesday. The chick was one week old, and was just over three ounces at birth. The other chick--the aquarium's first-ever penguin birth--continues gaining weight and “is doing really really well,” says Alison Barratt, an aquarium spokesperson. At 15 ounces on Monday, its growth rate is "astonishing," she says. The chick weighed two ounces at birth on Jan. 8.
In the wild, the mortality rate for new chicks is "very high," says Barratt, so “We knew it was likely to happen, but when it happens it doesn’t make it any easier. Our husbandry staff are devastated."
There is optimism, though, that the foster parents who were raising the chick will lay a new egg soon. First-time parents often struggle with raising chicks, Barratt says, "Kind of like for us. There’s no manual.”
The aquarium's penguins have long laid eggs, but have not had permits to allow for reproduction. Staff remove the eggs and replace them with replicas that allow parents to nest, but then when the egg doesn't hatch, parents abandon the egg as they would one in the wild. Through the species survival plan administered by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, which allows reproduction in captivity to help cover gaps in the genetic pool, the aquarium received its first-ever permit to allow for penguins to reproduce.
Most likely, the surviving chick and any others born under this permit will live their entire lives in captivity, but “by keeping a diverse gene pool in zoos and aquariums, we have a buffer should something catastrophic happen,” says Barratt. The black-footed penguin, which is native to South Africa, is the only species on exhibit at the aquarium for which the AZA has granted permission for reproduction.
You can watch the surviving chick here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D-Ntnb...