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New England Aquarium’s rockhopper penguin chick making progress after complicated hatching

Feb 16, 2024

A southern rockhopper penguin chick is getting closer to joining the rest of the New England Aquarium’s colony after a complicated hatching process.

When the new female chick hatched on June 23, aquarium officials say the hatchling was struggling to break through its shell. Ultimately, staff had to help the baby chick by gradually peeling away its outer shell and membrane.

“Eggs can take 24 to 48 hours to hatch, but we weren’t seeing much progress from the chick on its own and were concerned it was too weak,” said Dr. Melissa Joblon, Director of Animal Health at the Aquarium.

Over the next several hours, the chick was finally able to break through. Aquarium staff then provided around-the-clock care to maintain the newborn’s body temperature and allow her to finish the hatching process.

When the chick’s parents denied the opportunity to take on parental duties and raise her, more than 10 staffers began the around-the-clock process of raising the newborn, including giving her a specialized formula of fish, krill, vitamins, and supplements five times a day.

“Caring for a penguin chick is like caring for a human baby: It truly takes a village. Our dedicated staff jumped at the opportunity to spend their late hours helping provide the chick all of the care that it needed,” said Assistant Curator of Penguins Eric Fox.

The chick is now eating full meals of fish three times a day and is 17 times heavier than when she hatched. Staff say that once her waterproof feathers grow in this fall, the newborn will be ready to join the aquarium’s colony of 13 rockhopper penguins.

The penguin’s name will be revealed once she is able to join the colony.

“Although there are many milestones to go, we are seeing great signs that we have a healthy, thriving chick,” Fox said.

Southern rockhopper penguins are considered a vulnerable or threatened species, according to the aquarium.

“Over the past three to four decades, their numbers have dropped by about 35%, with climate change and the associated warming of the ocean surrounding their habitats cited as a major factor. Wild colonies also face threats including depletion of their food source, overfishing, and pollution from incidents such as oil spills,” said the New England Aquarium.

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