Tacoma's Point Defiance Zoo welcomes six newly hatched penguin chicks

The Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium welcomed six new penguin chicks last month, and they are almost ready to make their debut.

The zoo reports that the chicks hatched successfully in May and are being raised by their parents with support from the zookeepers and veterinary staff.

Veterinarian Dr. Karen Wolf holding Orange/Yellow's chick at hospital (Katie G. Cotterill/Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium).

The six chicks belong to three sets of parents. Pink and Red are raising two chicks, Purple and White have another two, and the remaining two are with Orange and Yellow. Of the six chicks, four are being raised by their penguin parents.

Chick feeds. Veterinarian Dr. Karen Wolf and Staff Biologist Katie DeLorenzo. (Katie G. Cotterill/Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium)

Two chicks are receiving special attention and around-the-clock care from veterinary staff. 

"We noticed one chick was unusually small and had an umbilical infection, so it needed treatment and close monitoring," explained Head Veterinarian Dr. Karen Wolf. "Keepers found the other chick outside of its nest extremely hypothermic and unresponsive and rushed it to the animal hospital, where it received emergency care. The two chicks are currently living in an incubator and are doing much better."

Staff Biologist Noelle Tremonti and Head Veterinarian Dr. Karen Wolf (Katie G. Cotterill/Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium).

Penguins typically have one to two eggs at a time. Penguin pairs also mate for life.

The zoo’s latest additions are the seventh and eighth chicks for both Red and Pink and Orange and Yellow.

Chick exams (Katie G. Cotterill/Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium).

Additionally, it is too early to determine if the chicks are male or female. That will likely be revealed in about a month.

How the zoo raises penguin chicks through artificial incubation

Penguin egg incubation and candling. Staff Biologist Maggie Santangelo (Katie G. Cotterill/Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium).

Penguins Purple and White have laid eggs at Point Defiance Zoo in the past, but they have never had a chick survive. This time, the zoo staff tried out a new strategy.

"This year, we decided to give them extra help and artificially incubate their eggs," explained DeGroot. "It's the first time in the zoo's history that we have incubated a bird egg."

Penguin egg incubation and candling (Katie G. Cotterill/Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium).

Keepers checked the incubated eggs daily. The zoo’s veterinary staff also candled the eggs, which is when veterinarians illuminate the inside of the egg to monitor how the embryo develops.

Once the zookeepers noticed that the chicks were about to hatch out of their shell, the eggs were moved from the incubator back to their parent’s nest. 

When will the penguin chicks be ready for public viewing?

Chicks in incubator at vet hospital (Katie G. Cotterill/Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium).

According to the Point Defiance Zoo, the newborn penguin chicks will likely make their debut at Penguin Point as soon as July. 

The first four chicks may be hidden for the next few weeks, keeping warm beneath their parents. They could come out to feed periodically.

Until then, guests could possibly spot the chicks inside their burrows.


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