The Penguin Post is happy to report that Spring is in the air for the Aquarium of the Pacific’s newest residents – a colony of 13 Magellanic Penguins. The aquarium will officially unveil its new June Keyes Penguin Habitat to the public today, but some of the birds have already begun breeding. Assistant curator Rob Mortensen said aquarium staff was surprised when the penguins, most of which arrived several months ago, began pairing up and laying eggs before their habitat home was complete. One pair is already raising a chick and another group is attending to a clutch of eggs. “We didn’t expect them to start breeding so quickly, but apparently Mother Nature took over,” Mortensen said.
Seven of the birds – six males and one female – are now on display in a 3,000-square-foot habitat built to resemble their native home along the rocky beaches of South America. The six other penguins are in a special breeding room and will be slowly introduced into the habitat once the eggs are hatched and the chicks are deemed healthy. The habitat is designed to hold up to 24 of the buoyant black-and-white birds. Aquarium President Jerry Schubel said the new exhibit will help educate the public about the environmental threats facing penguins across the world. More than 75 percent of the world’s 17 penguin species are threatened due to climate change, oil spills and overfishing, he said. “Perhaps never before have penguins experienced such rapid environmental changes,”he said. “We can help them by choosing sustainable seafood, decreasing carbon emissions, reducing pollution and protecting areas where these penguins breed and forage.” Schubel said a common misconception is that all penguins live in chilly climates with snow and ice. Several species live in warmer temperate zones.
“Most penguin species have never even seen snow, they’re like us in Southern California,” he said. The Magellanic Penguin is native to the coasts of Chile, Argentina and the Falkland Islands. The flightless birds are named after explorer Ferdinand Magellan, who spotted them on a voyage to South American in 1519.Four of the aquarium’s penguins were rescued on a beach near Rio de Janiero in Brazil and deemed unfit for the wild because of health issues. The penguins at the Aquarium of the Pacific won’t have to worry about food. They’re fed a rich diet of sardines and smelt up to three times a day. As part of the permanent exhibit, visitors will be able to learn more about penguins through two short films, a children’s program and a penguin guest speaker series. For information call 562-590-3100 or visit www.aquariumofpacific.org.