Zookeepers raise rare baby penguin

February 13, 2008 3:59:14 PM PST
Sometimes it's not easy coming into this world. Sometimes it's tough to survive -- and that's certainly the story for a new penguin chick hatched just two weeks ago at Brookfield Zoo. The tiny bird is doing fine now, but the little creature is lucky to be alive. The chick doesn't have a name yet and they don't even know its sex. But they do know that if Brookfield Zoo keepers hadn't stepped in the Humboldt Penguin chick, which is an endangered species, probably would have starved to death without the hand raising.

"He's doing super well. He's gaining weight the way he needs to gain weight at each feeding," said Darlene Broniewicz, Senior Keeper at Brookfield Zoo.

The chick hatched two weeks ago while on exhibit at Brookfield Zoo's Living Coast. The parents seemed to be taking care of the newborn but the tiny bird just wasn't gaining weight.

"So we assumed the parents just weren't feeding it enough. It wasn't as vocal as it should be-- initiate the feed response," said Rita Stacey, Assoc. Curator Living Coast Exhibit.

Using a penguin doll as a replacement parent, this pipsqueak penguin that was too small and weak to cry for food is now chowing down big time.

"(He eats) six times a day right now," said Broniewicz.

The chick eats a 'fish milkshake.' They take herring and something called capelin and blend it all together. Then, they add some vitamins and Pedialyte, the same stuff we give to our little kids.

"If they're a little bit behind in weight it doesn't hurt for them to get re-hydrated constantly so the Pedialyte helps hydrate them," said Broniewicz.

The feeding process will continue for another two and a half to three months. Then, the bird will meet the older penguins. Zookeepers hope it's a smooth process.

"They're always accepted into the colony. We've never had any problems with them not being accepted," said Broniewicz.

The chick only weighs 2/3 a pound, but in a few months should be full grown.