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Ten baby African penguins are born at the San Francisco Museum.
Science & Health

Ten baby African penguins are born at the San Francisco Museum.

In a span of just over a year, a San Francisco science museum has successfully hatched 10 African penguin chicks as part of their conservation efforts for this endangered species.

The California Academy of Sciences announced on Wednesday that the penguins started to hatch in November 2022, marking the end of a four-year span without any newly born chicks. This hatching continued until January of the current year.

According to a statement by the academy, the population of African penguins in the wild has decreased to 9,000 breeding pairs.

Threats such as overfishing, habitat degradation and oil spills have reduced colonies of the charismatic black-and-white birds, said Brenda Melton, director of animal care and well-being at the museum’s Steinhart Aquarium.

She stated that each new chick we bring in helps to improve the genetics and overall number of the species under human care.

Baby penguins, known as chicks, spend the initial three weeks of their lives in a nest box with their parents. After this, they attend a program called “fish school” where they are taught how to swim and feed on fish provided by scientists. Once they are capable, they are introduced to the rest of the penguin community.

According to the website of the academy, the 21 penguins located at the Golden Gate Park museum have unique personalities and are easily recognizable due to their flipper bands.

At 36 years old, Opal is the most senior member and has achieved expert skill in catching fish while in flight. Her companion, Pete, is sloppy when eating and enjoys flirting.

Stanlee and Bernie, who share a love for braying, bred four out of the 10 chicks. The youngest of the group is Fyn, named after a plant commonly found at the southern end of Africa. Fyn’s siblings include Nelson and Alice, who were both born in November.

Fyn frequently approaches biologists upon entering the habitat and nods her head towards them – a common courtship behavior exhibited by chicks and young individuals towards those who have nurtured them since birth.

The most recent hatchling was born on January 12, and its gender has yet to be determined.

African penguins have a lifespan of up to 27 years in their natural habitat, and can live even longer in captivity.