Three African penguin chicks and one rockhopper penguin chick were weighed Thursday by Aquarium penguin staff.

As part of the species survival plan for penguins, the New England Aquarium has hatched chicks from three different penguin species for decades.

Just like for birds in the wild, spring and early summer are intense times for penguin caregivers whether they be parent penguins or penguin biologists. Penguins grow unbelievably fast. In just a couple more months, they will be the size of adults.

Thursday afternoon, three African penguin chicks were weighed by New England Aquarium biologists as part of their daily care. This trio of grey chicks are between 40 and 50 days old. They were born weighing 2 to 3 ounces and in less than two months, they are about 25 times heavier than their birth weight. They now tip the scales from 4 ½ to 6 pounds. Their eventual adult weight will be 6 to 8 pounds. The chicks will  stay another month or two behind the scenes as their waterproof feathers grow in to replace their still fluffy down. They will be slowly introduced to the penguin colony with progressively longer day visits and eventually stay overnight by the end of summer. They will not receive names until they fully graduate to living on the penguin exhibit fulltime.

Penguin Chicks Get Weighed

The New England Aquarium has hatched chicks from three different penguin species for decades as part of a coordinated effort among zoo and aquariums  called a species survival plan. This effort insures genetic diversity and has the potential to act as a DNA reservoir should wild populations drop to dangerously low levels. Most penguin species in the wild are either threatened or endangered.

The Aquarium’s penguin biologists are very dedicated and talented at raising penguin chicks. Over the years, they have successfully raised hundreds of chicks. Some are part of the nearly 100 penguins on exhibit at the New England Aquarium while dozens of others can be found at zoos and aquariums across North America.

These chicks will live behind the scenes for a few months while they grow, but you can visit their parents and all the other penguins here at the Aquarium! 

Learn more about penguins and see past weigh-ins.

Conservation Context

African penguins (Spheniscus demersus) are in danger of extinction. Wild colonies along the coasts of South Africa and Namibia are threatened by the depletion of their food from overfishing, climate change, and pollution from incidents such as oil spills. The African penguin is listed as Endangered on the IUCN Red List, and the species has seen a population reduction of about 90% since the beginning of the 20th century, with population trends continuing to decline.
Here at the New England Aquarium, we also do our part to help preserve the population! We participate with other organizations in the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) in a program called SSP, or Species Survival Plan. The mission of such a plan is to oversee the population management of select species to enhance conservation of this species in the wild. By breeding specific pairs, we will ensure that we have a healthy and genetically diverse population in zoos and aquariums across the country for years to come. So if you never get a chance to see African penguins in the wild, you will get a chance to see them when you visit places like the New England Aquarium.