Raising the Bar...and Penguins!
Have you ever thought about how difficult it must be to do
something if hardly any one else can do it? Olympic athletes
compete among the elite and talented few. Astronauts have specialties
few others have and only a handful of those have actually walked
on the moon. SeaWorld aviculturists have successfully raised
emperor and other species of penguins, which has not been done
outside the Antarctic wild anywhere else in the world! These
things impress me. What does it take to accomplish things that
have never been done before? It takes conviction that it can
be achieved, knowledge about how to do it, skill to realize
the "so far" unattainable, and determination to continue
through disappointment. This is exactly what SeaWorld's bird
Thirty years ago, it was unheard of to even attempt to care
for and display cold weather penguin species like emperors,
Adelies and chinstraps. Well before our Penguin Encounter opened
at SeaWorld in San Diego, strategy was in place to closely replicate
not only the physical environment of the penguins, but also
the light cycles (opposite of our northern hemisphere of course),
nesting material access and social requirements. During each
species' breeding season, you can observe the particular specialized
behaviors each perform to select prime nest locations, "impress"
potential mates, and prepare to raise chicks.
Males establish the nest site in most
species that build nests, often by using small stones.
The better the nest, the more likely a female will "move
in". Most penguin species are monogamous, with pairs
being faithful to the same nest site year after year.
It does happen, however, that new pairs form (females
choose their mates), and multiple partners occur, which
seems to increase breeding success for those individuals.
The keepers at the Penguin Encounter chart where nest
sites are located each year, which penguins have paired
off and the success or failure of eggs laid and hatched.
Amazingly, the penguins, too, seem to know when a pairing
isn't productive - they move on and find a more compatible
Sometimes pairs are wonderful at raising
one chick, but not two, which happens often in the wild.
In those cases, caretakers remove one of the eggs, to
give both chicks an equal chance at survival.
Through extensive research, careful monitoring,
thorough record keeping, and painstaking attention to
detail, the aviculture staff has been able to succeed
where only nature has been able to before.
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