Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park celebrated Penguin Awareness Day in the best way possible, by announcing a new addition to their endangered African penguin family. The Gulfarium, located on Okaloosa Island in Fort Walton Beach, revealed that a penguin chick hatched at the park on December 20th, 2019.

The penguin chick was raised by surrogate penguin parents, Missy and Tubbs, for the first three weeks of his life. “Once an egg is laid, we remove it from the nest and replace it with a fake egg for the adult penguins to sit on. This is so that we can closely monitor the development of the fetus. We give fake eggs to multiple of our mated pairs to encourage them to learn how to care for an egg. Once the chick hatches, we place it in the nest with the surrogate parents and remove their fake egg. In the wild, it is not uncommon for eggs to not develop, so the penguins who do not receive the chick, simply remove the fake egg from their nest when it does not hatch,” explains Bryan Martin, Director of Animal Management. “As Ninja and Jelly have successfully raised a chick in the past, we gave Missy and Tubbs the opportunity to learn, under staff supervision. Our animal care specialists would monitor the growth of the chick with frequent weight checks. Now we have further pairs of adult penguins that know how to successfully raise a chick in case we ever have 2 eggs hatch around the same time. ”

“African penguins are an endangered species,” says Mary Kate Northup, Gulfarium’s Operations Manager. “They are at serious risk of extinction, so any effort we can do to help preserve the species is vital. Penguin Awareness Day is the perfect way to educate the public on how we can help to protect this wonderful species.” The wild African penguin population has decreased at the alarming rate of over sixty percent in the last 30 years.

This penguin chick will be the third chick in the Gulfarium’s penguin colony that was born to parents, Ninja and Jelly. Ninja and Jelly’s first chick, Becky, hatched in December 2016 and quickly became a well-known member of the Gulfarium’s animal family. Becky’s brother, Toto, hatched on September 12th, 2018 and recently completed his first molt, where his juvenile feathers were shed and replaced with his tuxedo-style, black and white adult feathers.

“Our team is doing everything we can to not only protect this species from extinction, but also teach our guests about what they can do to help. Through the experiences and education that we provide here at the Gulfarium, we hope to inspire our guests to respect and love wildlife as much as we do.” says Patrick Berry, Gulfarium’s Senior Vice President.

The Gulfarium anticipates that the chick will begin to grow his waterproof feathers in just a little over a month and shortly thereafter, be ready to learn how to swim so that he can be out on exhibit with the rest of the penguin colony.

The public is invited to follow the chick’s progress on Gulfarium’s Facebook page. All updates, including milestones will be made available via Facebook.