Friday, August 8, 2003

Pair of penguins hatch a prince

By Andrea Uhde
The Cincinnati Enquirer

[IMAGE] Zookeeper David Oehler's hands cradle a 10-day-old king penguin while its parents, Larry and BB, stay nearby.
(Tony Jones photo)
| ZOOM |
Larry is overprotective of his 10-day-old baby.

He refuses to let the baby's mother touch it. He snuggles the baby close to his feet all day long. "He's single-handedly doing most of the work," said Rickey Kinley, an aviculturist at the Cincinnati Zoo.

To look at the wrinkly 18-ounce king penguin chick, it's easy to realize why Larry the penguin is so fatherly.

"It's really cute," said Tara Clark, 12, of Vandalia, Ohio.

The chick, which has yet to be named, is the second king penguin chick to be hatched at the zoo and the first to be raised by its mother, BB (as in BB King), and father.

Each day, zoo workers remove the tiny chick from under the flap of skin at its father's feet and weigh it. The chick has steadily grown; the day it was born, it weighed 8 ounces.

In about eight more months, he'll be grown enough to slip into the cold water. In about two years, he'll be old enough to not need his mother and father to protect him.

King penguins are found in the sub-Antarctic and the low latitudes of Antarctica. They are black with a white belly and gold on the sides of their heads.

Full-grown, a king penguin weighs about 30 pounds and can swim up to 6 mph.

Aviculturists are finding that fewer penguin chicks are hatching and surviving in their natural habitat.

"Right now, the penguin population throughout the world is declining," said David Oehler, the zoo's curator of birds. "These guys are facing pressures in the wild.'' The zoo has a staff in the Antarctic monitoring penguin colonies and studying how tourists affect them.


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