Credits: Craig Robertson/Toronto Sun/QMI Agency
TORONTO — The Toronto Zoo sent out a “cute alert” Friday and with good reason: Its endangered African penguin flock officially has eight new chicks.
Two of the parent penguins are Buddy and Pedro, who were propelled to international fame after they paired up as gay penguins and were separated to mate with females.
The arrival of eight babies -- adding to the existing 11 penguins -- is good news for the zoo’s species survival plan, according to wildlife manager Eric Cole.
“It’s important because it means that you’ve got important birds being hatched for the future of the captive population,” he said.
There are an estimated 50,000 African penguins left in the wild now, as opposed to 1.2 million close to the beginning of the last century.
“If it continues the way it does, there won’t be wild penguins,” Cole said. “But at least we’ll have a reservoir of penguins, and penguins shouldn’t be too hard to introduce in the wild as long as there’s a food source.”
Following three springtime hatchings, the five most recent hatchings came within a two-week period in December, involving four pairs of penguins.
A fifth pair is “still sitting on two eggs due to hatch in mid-January,” according to a zoo statement.
Cole said a few of the pairs are first-time parents, which “aren’t as good as experienced birds.”
“So we make sure we can see that they’re feeding them properly and enough and that the chicks are doing OK,” he said.
If there’s any sign of trouble, the zoo steps in.
-- With files from Kevin Connor