Oct 06

At SeaWorld San Diego, There’s a New Emperor in Town

by Staff

It may be small, fluffy and wobbly, but SeaWorld San Diego has new emperor at the park and it’s ready to rule. Emperor penguin chick at SeaWorld San DiegoTo the delight of the SeaWorld’s aviculturists, a black and white emperor penguin chick hatched just over three weeks ago and is being cared for behind-the-scenes at the Penguin Encounter. This is 21st successful emperor hatching at SeaWorld San Diego, which has the Western Hemisphere’s only successful emperor penguin breeding colony outside the Antarctic.

“We’re very proud of this hatching because it’s more difficult to breed emperor penguins due to their specialized needs,” said Stephanie Costelow, curator of birds. “I think the reason we have been so successful is because we have been able to closely replicate their natural Antarctic environment.”

Lauren Du Bois, assistant curator of birds, says that the first few weeks of an emperor’s life are critical, but that she and other aviculturists are optimistic about the chick’s progress.

“Having an emperor chick hatch is rare and special,” said Du Bois, “We are making absolutely sure that the chick gets the utmost care and attention in a quiet, stress-free environment.”

An animal care specialists holds an emperor penguin chick at SeaWorld San DiegoThe chick weighed 12 ounces and measured only 4 inches high when it hatched on Sept. 12. It now weighs nearly 2 pounds and stands nearly 7 inches tall. The chick is being fed five times a day, mostly a special formula of fish, krill, vitamins and minerals. Each day, the chick puts on about 10 percent of its body weight. At 4 months, it will be large enough to be introduced to the adult emperor colony.

Its fluffy black and white head is the chick’s most pronounced feature. The largest of all penguin species, adult emperors can reach up to 3 feet tall and may weigh up to 90 pounds. Adult emperors feed primarily on small fish and squid, which they consume whole. The sex of the newly hatched chick won’t be known for several weeks.

SeaWorld San Diego is world-renowned for its successful penguin breeding program. Since 1980, more than 500 penguin chicks representing eight species have been hatched and raised, including the first-ever chinstrap and emperor penguins. The most recent emperor hatchings were in 1997 (two), 1999 (one) and 2002 (one). If you want an opportunity to go behind-the-scenes of our Penguin Encounter make sure you book the Penguin Experiences Tour by clicking here.