Endangered penguin hatches at Gulfarium
OKALOOSA ISLAND — Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park has announced a new addition to their endangered African penguin family.
The Gulfarium, located on Okaloosa Island in Fort Walton Beach, revealed that a penguin chick hatched at the park on Dec. 20, 2019.
The penguin chick was raised by surrogate penguin parents, Missy and Tubbs, for the first three weeks of his life, according to a press release from the Gulfarium.
"Once an egg is laid, we remove it from the nest and replace it with a fake egg for the adult penguins to sit on. This is so that we can closely monitor the development of the fetus,“ said Bryan Martin, director of animal management.
The Gulfarium gives fake eggs to mated pairs to encourage them to learn how to care for an egg. Once the chick hatches, it’s placed in the nest with the surrogate parents and the fake egg is removed, the release said.
“In the wild, it is not uncommon for eggs to not develop, so the penguins who do not receive the chick simply remove the fake egg from their nest when it does not hatch," Martin said. "As Ninja and Jelly have successfully raised a chick in the past, we gave Missy and Tubbs the opportunity to learn, under staff supervision.“
"African penguins are an endangered species," says Mary Kate Northup, Gulfarium's Operations Manager. "They are at serious risk of extinction, so any effort we can do to help preserve the species is vital.“
The wild African penguin population has decreased at the alarming rate of over 60% in the last 30 years, the release said.
This penguin chick will be the third chick in the Gulfarium's penguin colony that was born to parents, Ninja and Jelly. Ninja and Jelly's first chick, Becky, hatched in December 2016. Becky's brother, Toto, hatched on Sept. 12, 2018 and recently completed his first molt, where his juvenile feathers were shed and replaced with his tuxedo-style, black and white adult feathers.
The Gulfarium anticipates that the chick will begin to grow his waterproof feathers in just a little over a month and shortly thereafter, be ready to learn how to swim so that he can be out on exhibit with the rest of the penguin colony.
The public is invited to follow the chick's progress on Gulfarium's Facebook page.