MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Two baby penguins took a big first step, or rather swim at the Memphis Zoo. Four-month-old Casey and Kelso had their first swims Monday.
Like many firsts, Casey and Kelso’s first swim at the Memphis Zoo came with some bumps in the road and a little motivation.
“We loved seeing the penguins,” Zoo Visitor Sarah Kaiser said. “They were so fluffy and they swam around.”
It didn’t take long for the Zoo’s baby African penguins to get used to their new normal in the water. The penguins’ first swim took place Monday, but a month ago WMC Action News 5 got exclusive access when the chicks were introduced to the rest of the 18 African penguins on site.
They were a little more fluffy then.
“When they do hatch they have that fluffy down,” Memphis Zoo’s Pelican and Penguin Primary Janie Miller said. “After about three months that will fall away, it will molt off and become waterproof. That’s what we’ve been waiting on and a nice sunny day.”
The two hatched penguins are considered a major success for the breeding season. The Memphis Zoo takes part in the Species Survival Plan for the endangered African penguins.
“There are several zoos that have African penguins, but just to have a successful breeding season here is an extra draw,” Miller said.
Miller said over the last 30 years the species has lost 60% of its population. It’s mainly due to overfishing and climate change.
“These guys do spend a lot of time on land,” Miller said. “They build their nests and burrows in the sand so with climate change if there is excess flooding it can wash away the burrows and nests. It’s hard to build your population when your chicks are dying.”
There’s the potential for more chicks this season, but the breeding season is about over. So, Casey and Kelso will be at the Memphis Zoo for the foreseeable future though possibly not forever.
As these chicks get stronger their very existence will become crucial for the future of their whole species.