Guest Blogger: Josh Davis, Assistant Trainer of Penguins at Mystic Aquarium, on Saving African Penguins

Calling all animal lovers! Today is World Penguin Day and we’re thrilled to welcome Josh Davis, Assistant Trainer of Penguins at Mystic Aquarium, as our guest blogger. He is passionate about penguins and is currently working to preserve the African penguin population through the Association of Zoos and Aquariums Species Survival Plan. What a wonderful way to celebrate this beloved bird!

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Mystic Aquarium is currently home to a colony of 31 African penguins. Not only is Mystic Aquarium accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), but our African penguin colony is part of AZA’s Species Survival Plan (SSP). This program ensures that there will be a healthy breeding population of African penguins in zoos and aquariums. Only facilities meeting AZA’s high animal care standards are able to participate in this program and Mystic Aquarium is proud to be one of them!

This year, as part of the SSP, three African penguin chicks were welcomed into our colony. They hatched here in late January and weighed as little as 54 grams – that’s about the same as 54 paperclips! African penguin parents in South Africa take turns feeding and caring for their chicks and the ones at Mystic Aquarium are no different. The six parents this year did an excellent job raising the three chicks and it was evident in how rapidly they grew. In fact, one set of parents were raising a chick for the very first time and their parenting skills were spot on! Just last week the chicks received their very own identification bracelets.

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Two of three African penguin chicks born at Mystic Aquarium.

It’s exciting to see the population of African penguins in zoos and aquariums growing. Unfortunately, the case is not the same for the penguins living in South Africa. Their population has declined by over 70% in the last 10 years alone. This population, which once numbered in the millions, is now estimated to stand at fewer than 19,000 breeding pairs. Scientists even predict they could be extinct as soon as 2025.

Mystic Aquarium’s dedication to conserving this species is unparalleled. Mystic Aquarium’s mission is “to inspire people to care for and protect our ocean planet through education, research, and exploration.” The three facets of the mission: education, research, and exploration can all be applied to African penguin conservation efforts occurring both at Mystic Aquarium and in South Africa.

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Josh enjoys educating guests on penguin conservation.

Mystic Aquarium’s partnership with the Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds (SANCCOB) allows for staff to explore unique opportunities in penguin conservation. Staff members from Mystic Aquarium travel to SANCCOB and help rehabilitate abandoned penguin chicks, assist in oil spill cleanups, and take part in population monitoring projects. Research is also being done at Mystic Aquarium, utilizing our own penguin colony to gain a better understanding of African penguin behavior, molting, and reproduction. Understanding these processes will better allow us to help them in the open ocean. Lastly, through public programs such as our Penguin Encounter Program, guests can become aware of the plight of African penguins and learn how they can help to ensure their survival. The chicks that hatched this year at Mystic Aquarium will eventually learn to participate in these programs and go on to inspire guests for future generations to come. They are not only ambassadors for their species; they are also a symbol of hope. Please join Mystic Aquarium and AZA in supporting these beautiful animals!

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The three African penguin chicks enjoy their first swim.

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Want to help make a difference in the lives of animals? Through November 2014, 20% of all Alex and Ani sales of the Penguin Charm, with a minimum donation of $25,000, will go directly to the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, a non-profit dedicated to the advancement of zoos and aquariums in the areas of wildlife conservation, science education, and a better future for all living things.

Shop the Penguin Charm Bangle.

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Brendon Cunha
Alex & Ani