A king-sized bundle of joy has been welcomed into the world thanks to a collaboration between two midwestern zoos. A king penguin chick hatched at the Detroit Zoo on Aug. 13 — but this chick’s story began nearly 300 miles away, at the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden – where its parents, 27-year-old Larry and 8-year-old Stacy, initially laid the egg.
“One of the tried-and-true ways to check fertility of an egg with a thick shell — like a king penguin egg — is to do something called ‘floating,’” said Jennifer Gainer, the Cincinnati Zoo’s curator of birds. “Simple enough, we briefly float the egg 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.”
When the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ Species Survival Plan recommended the Detroit Zoo as a home for the future chick, representatives from both zoos starting 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,” said 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 the egg hatched in August, Detroit Zoo experts said the king chick — who has yet to be named — is doing well and is being closely cared for by its foster parents.
“They are excellent, attentive parents,” Jozwiak said of the foster parents. “We don’t know the sex of the chick just yet, but we are all looking forward to watching it grow up. We are already picking out names we can give the chick once we know the sex.”
Representatives of both zoos said they are pleased their collaboration led to the hatching of a healthy and well-cared-for king penguin chick.
“This was a very time-sensitive situation that has resulted in the best-case scenario,” Gainer said. “We couldn’t have made this happen without the professionalism and extensive knowledge of both the Detroit and Cincinnati bird teams.”
“We are so grateful for relationships like these with fellow zoos because they lead to excellent outcomes like these,” added Bonnie Van Dam, curator of birds for the DZS. “None of this would have been possible without the creative and hard-working people at both the Cincinnati Zoo and the Detroit Zoo.”