THE WORLD OF ANIMALS IN THE 21st CENTURY
The Central Park Zoo Welcomes Penguin Chicks!
The Central Park Zoo's chilly penguin exhibit is one of the best places to get out of the summer heat, but now there's an even better reason to cool off there: penguin chicks! These adorable, fuzzy creatures might be tough to find at first, but patient zoo-goers will see their furry, little heads popping up from their nests over the next few weeks.
The zoo has successfully hatched penguin chicks for 16 years. The year-long process requires meticulous care and dedication from both penguins and zookeepers. Interestingly, many penguin customs sound familiar, like setting the mood with lighting, finding the perfect "rock," and heading to summer homes with the family. These sound like activities people do, but penguins have much more practical reasons for performing them.
The first step for a successful breeding season is the lighting. Zookeepers simulate the Antarctic light cycle so the birds can adhere to a breeding schedule close to the one they would have in the wild. This careful lighting cues the birds to the time of year in the Southern Hemisphere and when they should start thinking about building their nests. When the mating season begins around early spring, zookeepers introduce rocks, similar to ones found in the birds' native habitat, into the exhibit. The male penguins search for just the right rock and present it to the female. She either accepts or rejects it. The male penguin does this many times until they collect enough rocks to build a nest. Both parents take turns sitting on the nest, warming the egg, and feeding the chick when it hatches. Once the youngsters start waddling about, zookeepers bring the family to dry "summer homes" to ensure the chicks' downy feathers stay dry. When their adult, waterproof feathers grow in, the entire family returns to their waterfront property.
The Central Park Zoo has just over 60 penguins of two different Antarctic species, Gentoos and Chinstraps. While these types of penguins are not yet endangered, a new study has shown that penguins may be the new canary in the coal mine. The oceans where these animals live are facing many problems, calling on scientists to work on protecting seascapes and the animals that inhabit them.
These threats include global warming, over fishing, and the degradation of coastal ecosystems. WCS has worked to protect penguins since the 1960s, establishing protected areas where penguins breed, and tracking their migration patterns to better understand potential threats. WCS-funded researcher Dee Boersma of the University of Washington continues to conduct one of the longest, most comprehensive research projects on penguins in the world, in Punta Tombo, Argentina.
The Central Park Zoo, a Wildlife Conservation Society park, is located at 64th Street and Fifth Avenue. Admission is $8 for adults, $4 for senior citizens, $3 for children 3 to 12, and free for children under 3. Admission includes entry into the main Zoo and the Tisch Children's Zoo. Zoo hours are 10 A.M. to 5 P.M., weekdays, and 10 A.M. to 5:30 P.M. weekends. Tickets are sold until one half-hour before closing. For further information, please call 212-439-6500 or visit www.centralparkzoo.com
The Wildlife Conservation Society saves wildlife and wild places worldwide. It does so through science, global conservation, education and the management of the world's largest system of urban wildlife parks, led by the flagship Bronx Zoo.
Together these activities change attitudes towards nature and help people imagine wildlife and humans living in harmony. WCS is committed to this mission because it is essential to the integrity of life on Earth. For further information, visit www.wcs.org #