The Maryland Zoo in Baltimore is now home to three new African penguins!
Last week, the zoo announced that it had welcomed the three new chicks on Sept. 18, Sept. 22 and Oct. 4 — the first eggs to hatch this breeding season.
"It’s amazing to me that we are in our 53rd year working with African penguins. We are always excited to watch the colony grow each year, and happy to announce that three chicks have hatched already this breeding season," Jen Kottyan, the zoo's conservation manager, said in a statement.
Kottyan added that they expect to hatch seven more chicks this season, but that it "is all dependent on the penguins."
According to the Maryland Zoo, African penguins are an "extremely endangered" species. The current global population is reported to be around 18,500 pairs, which is down 2 million pairs from the 1920s — a 99.2% decline over the last 100 years.
The zoo itself is home to the largest colony of African penguins in North America with 104 birds.
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Penguin chicks hatch around 38-42 days after the eggs are laid. Zoo officials said that their team checks the eggs when they are first laid to make sure a chick is growing before giving it back to the parents to hatch.
"With African penguins, both the male and the female take turns incubating the eggs," said Kottyan. "Once the eggs hatch, parents take turns caring for their offspring; they each protect, feed, and keep the chick warm for 2-3 days and then switch off."
When the chicks first hatch, they are about the size of a human palm. However, within three months, they reach their full adult size at about 6 pounds.
Veterinary staff at the zoo monitors the baby animals as they grow in those early weeks, weighing and measuring them every few days to make sure they are receiving the proper care from the parent penguins.
The chicks are expected to make their debut at the park when temperatures warm up in April.
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