The San Francisco Science Museum is celebrating a significant conservation effort after welcoming 10 baby African penguins in just over a year. The penguins began to hatch in November 2022, ending a four-year drought, and continued until January of this year. This marks an important step in protecting the endangered bird, with the California Academy of Sciences reporting that the number of African penguins has dropped to 9,000 breeding pairs in the wild due to threats such as overfishing, habitat degradation and oil spills.
Brenda Melton, director of animal care and welfare at the museum’s Steinhart Aquarium, explained that each chick welcomed helps strengthen the genetics and overall population of the species in human care. For the first three weeks of their lives, the chicks are cared for by their penguin parents. Afterwards, they attend “fish school,” a program that teaches them how to swim and eat fish provided by biologists. When they are ready, they are introduced to the colony.
The museum’s 21 penguins are known for their distinct personalities and can be easily identified by armbands. Partners Stanley and Bernie are responsible for producing four out of 10 chickens. The oldest saw is called Finn, named after the type of vegetation found in southern Africa. Finn is currently displaying her big sister status alongside Nelson and Alice who both hatched in November last year. The youngest chick was hatched on January 12th and its gender has yet to be determined. In captivity, African penguins can live up to 27 years old.