There’s a fluffy new bundle of joy at the Detroit Zoo!
A yet-to-be named king penguin chick hatched at the Detroit Zoo on Aug. 13 — but this chick’s story actually began nearly 300 miles away, at the Cincinnati Zoo.
The chick’s biological parents, 27-year-old Larry and 8-year-old Stacy, initially laid the egg, and Cincinnati staff quickly learned the egg was fertile through a process called “floating.” In this process, an egg is floated in warm water to look for ripples in the water.
“We were excited to confirm fertility when the little bundle of joy was bouncing around like crazy,” says Jennifer Gainer, the Cincinnati Zoo’s curator of birds.
Not long after, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ Species Survival Plan recommended the Detroit Zoo as a home for the future chick, and representatives from both zoos started collaborating – carefully crafting a plan to incubate, transport and transfer the king penguin chick egg to its new foster parents.
Awaiting the little nestling at the Detroit Zoo was the perfect pair of foster parents – a 21-year-old male and a 7-year-old female named Gertie. These king penguins blended and bonded during the July to September mating season but didn’t produce an egg of their own. Instead, to prepare the couple for parenthood, zookeepers provided the pair a “practice” egg to care for until the “real” egg from the Cincinnati Zoo arrived.
“It was a perfect situation,” says Jessica Jozwiak, bird supervisor at the Detroit Zoological Society (DZS). “We had a pair that was closely bonded but did not produce an egg this year, so we were able to give this egg to them. Everything has worked out wonderfully.”
Since hatching, the chick has been thriving. While the sex of the chick is not yet known, it is growing up behind the scenes, closely cared for by its attentive foster parents. After fledging, the chick will live with inside the habitat at the Polk Penguin Conservation Center with the rest of the king, macaroni, rockhopper and chinstrap penguins who call the center home.
We can’t wait to see this special chick grow up!