2 Penguin Chicks Hatch at Little Rock Zoo

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. - A summer baby boom at the Little Rock Zoo has continued with the hatching of two penguin chicks in August and September.

The Zoo announced the arrivals in a news release issued on Wednesday.

The African penguin hatchlings will soon make their debut in the penguin habitat. 

Other zoo babies born in recent months include a yellow-backed duiker, a zebra colt and two pygmy slow lorises.

The penguins mark the eighth and ninth hatchlings since the Zoo opened the Laura P. Nichols Penguin Pointe exhibit in 2011. Both came as a recommendation under the African Penguin Species Survival Plan. 

The eighth chick, a baby girl, hatched early and has been hand-reared from Day 1. Her parents are Gable and Bugsy, both first-time parents. Bugsy was the second chick hatched at the Zoo, in 2013.

The new chick is now thriving after enduring quite a rough start in life. Her egg was found by keepers partially hatched Aug. 13, and it was rushed to the veterinarian, which assisted with the delicate process of hatching, taking several hours. 

Keepers then came in to give her round-the-clock care for the first weeks of her life, hand-feeding her fish formula. The chick, which has been named Shelly (photo below taken at 3.5 weeks old), is now eating small fish on her own and will be out on exhibit once she is able to swim, which will be in a couple of months.

"This little penguin is nothing short of a miracle," said Zoo Director Susan Altrui. "She's a fighter, and has been in the best of care since even before she hatched. Our vet staff and keepers showed tremendous skill and the utmost dedication."

The ninth penguin chick was hatched Sept. 8 and is a boy. He does not yet have a name.

The hatching of the two chicks comes about as a recommendation of the African penguin Species Survival Plan. The SSP manages populations of endangered species to help ensure the long-term survival of these animals. The African penguin is also a part of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) Saving Animals From Extinction (SAFE) program that focuses the collective conservation efforts of AZA accredited zoos and aquariums to help save animals in the wild.

African penguins, also known as black-footed penguins, are native to the country of South Africa and Namibia and are considered an endangered species because of loss of habitat, overfishing, and oil spills. African penguin populations have declined by 95 percent in the past 100 years.

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