A few weeks ago, at NAUSICAA, Chilli and Coco gave birth to a little African penguin. Having spent some time in an incubator, the baby is now ready to join the colony of penguins in the Ocean & Climate: Getting hot in here! exhibition, which looks at the dangers and consequences of global warming for the oceans. Visitors to NAUSICAA can now watch the inquisitive baby penguin interact with the other penguins.
NAUSICAA has chosen to display the African penguins within this exhibition in order to raise visitors’ awareness of this species, whose population in the wild has declined significantly: there are now just 80,000 of them left. NAUSICAA is supporting the work of SANCCOB (Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds), a South African NGO which works to save and rehabilitate penguins who are covered in oil, injured, sick or orphaned. Every month, one more penguin is saved thanks to donations from visitors to NAUSICAA.
75 g and 17 cm at birth
The baby penguin who was born a few weeks ago is now ready to join the colony of 22 penguins at NAUSICAA. The baby can be recognised by the colour of her breast, which is completely white at the moment. As she grows, a unique pattern of black spots will appear on her belly, like a natural identity card. Although it is impossible to tell with the naked eye whether a baby is male or female, a DNA test has established that she is female.
Other babies were recently spotted in the colony’s nests, and are being closely guarded by their parents. They will become visible soon, once they are independent enough to leave their nests.
The penguins at NAUSICAA
NAUSICAA’s penguins have all been born in European aquariums and zoos. The first baby penguin born at NAUSICAA was a little female, who was named Tara by Internet users. Since 2006, NAUSICAA’s penguins have given birth to 18 babies. Many of these young penguins have gone to join other colonies at European zoos such as the one at Budapest in Hungary, Pistoia Zoo in Italy, or the Mare Nostrum Aquarium in Montpellier.
NAUSICAA’s penguins and their handlers are on very friendly terms, exhibiting mutual trust and enjoying playtime together, much to the delight of visitors, especially children. Each penguin is given a name with no more than two syllables and very quickly learns to recognise it. This is very useful when the handlers want to communicate with one animal in particular. All of the names given to NAUSICAA’s penguins are connected with the sea, South Africa or quite simply the character that is so typical of these birds.
A competition will soon be held on social media to invite Internet users to suggest a name for the little female, who is just a few weeks old.
In South Africa, the African penguin (Spheniscus demersus) was the first species of penguin to be discovered by Europeans. It feeds on small fish, which it hunts through forests of algae. They dig a nest in the sand which resembles a rabbit’s burrow. Penguins live in colonies where they often support each other. In water, they can move as fast as fish, and although they sometimes appear clumsy on dry land, they are surprisingly agile when climbing rocks. They live to an average age of 30 years and stay with the same partner for life.
There are currently 80,000 African penguins in the wild. The population has decreased significantly for several reasons such as pollution (fuel oil and oil slicks), a reduction in its habitat due to human and industrial activity, egg collecting, collection of guano, which disturbs penguin colonies and destroys their usual nesting sites, the introduction of predators, and overfishing of small fish, which deprives them of food.
To find out more about African penguins, see http://www.nausicaa.fr/manchot-du-cap.html