Mystic, Conn. (March 26, 2020): During Mystic Aquarium’s temporary closure amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the animal care team is working in unconventional ways to support the animals in their care, including special “enrichment” opportunities for Rex the Tegu, Cork the harbor seal, and other species. In keeping with that trend, the Aquarium will break from the norm and invite the community to help them name the newest addition to the African penguin colony; a chick born on February 3.
Visitors to Mystic Aquarium’s Penguin Pavilion see the colored beads on the wings of each African penguin in the colony. Indicative of their gender and their numbered place in the colony; these beads become their name. For the first time, a more conventional name will be given to the chick with the help of friends and fans.
“We’re all in this together,” said Tracy Camp, an Assistant Supervisor with the Aquarium’s animal care team, who focuses on penguin care, “so we wanted to make this a community effort”.
The Aquarium will host a naming contest for the chick as an important fundraising initiative as well. During this time, essential staff continue to provide world-class care to its over 4,000 marine mammals, birds, fish, reptiles and amphibians, but all other operations are shuttered. Donations are being collected to help ensure the health and safety of the many species the Aquarium cares for now and in the future.
“Funds raised through this contest will be hugely beneficial to us in these very difficult economic times,” added Camp.
This fuzzy African penguin, who is part of Mystic Aquarium’s species conservation efforts, is the 59th penguin to join the colony. For a donation of $59 individuals can submit their suggestion for the chick’s name for consideration. To help, visit MysticAquarium.org/Name-the-Chick.
“Send in your suggestion, and remember,” said Camp, “we don’t know the gender of the chick yet.”
African penguins have no external characteristics to distinguish between males and females. A DNA test will be conducted when the chick is a few months old to determine the gender.
The African penguin, one of the Aquarium’s most beloved animals, is also at the highest risk of extinction compared to other species. Listed as endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) in 2010, the wild population of the African penguin could vanish within our lifetime.
In addition to being cute, this penguin chick in incredibly important as Mystic Aquarium works with colleagues from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) as part of the Species Survival Plan (SSP) to ensure the long-term survival of African penguins in accredited zoos and aquariums. Mystic Aquarium was a founding member of the African penguin SSP in 1995.