Southern Rockhopper Penguin Chick now on Exhibit at New England Aquarium

BOSTON, MASS. (Sept. 6, 2023) – A southern rockhopper penguin chick is now on exhibit for the public to view at the New England Aquarium after growing behind the scenes for the past two months.

The female chick hatched to parents Pebble II and Fuego on June 23. Aquarium staff have been raising it off exhibit as the bird learned to hand feed and socialize with other resident rockhopper penguins. Penguins typically receive their waterproof feathers between 75 and 100 days-old, which enables them to learn to swim safely. The rockhopper chick received a full medical examination last week and was given a clean bill of health, allowing her to join the rest of the colony of 13 rockhopper penguins on exhibit.

“While more than 185 successful penguin chicks have been hatched and raised at the New England Aquarium, this is only our tenth southern rockhopper penguin chick. So, we are ecstatic to have her join our colony and share her with our visitors,” said Assistant Curator of Penguins Eric Fox. “I could not be prouder of our team who put their hearts and souls into hand-raising this chick from day one.”

The chick required medical intervention when it began to hatch back in June and struggled to break through its shell. The Aquarium’s Animal Care team gave it a chance to fully hatch on her own but decided to intervene to ensure the best chance of survival. Staff then provided round-the-clock care and monitored the bird for several days.

Southern rockhopper penguins are considered a vulnerable or threatened species. Over the past three to four decades, their numbers have dropped by about 35%, with climate change and the associated warming of the ocean surrounding their habitats cited as a major factor. Wild colonies also face threats including depletion and overfishing of their food source and pollution from incidents such as oil spills.

The Aquarium is planning to reveal the new chick’s name in the coming weeks. By giving penguins names linked to natural history and conservation, the Aquarium is able to connect with and educate guests about the birds who are ambassadors for their species.

The New England Aquarium participates in the Southern Rockhopper Species Survival Plan through the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), which supports field conservation efforts and a thoughtful breeding program to promote a sustainable future for this threatened species.

Collaborating with other zoos and aquariums helps ensure a genetically diverse and sustainable rockhopper penguin population both in their natural habitat and human care. These efforts also contribute to educating guests visiting these conservation organizations.

The rockhopper chick is the second penguin chick to hatch at the New England Aquarium this year. “Bray,” an African penguin, hatched on March 23. African penguins are an endangered species.

“This is another amazing example of the New England Aquarium’s dedicated Animal Care staff prioritizing the wellbeing of our animals and conservation of marine life. We are fortunate to have an incredible team of animal professionals that not only advocate for the penguins in our care, but also focus on protecting the blue planet,” said Kristen Van Oss, Curator of Pinnipeds and Penguins.

ABOUT THE NEW ENGLAND AQUARIUM: The New England Aquarium is a nonprofit research and conservation organization that has protected and cared for our ocean and marine animals for more than 50 years. We provide science-based solutions and help shape policies that create measurable change to address threats the ocean faces. We inspire action through discovery and help create engaged, resilient communities.
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