Call that a peng-win.
SeaWorld San Diego recently welcomed an emperor penguin chick to its family — marking the first hatchling of the threatened species in the Western Hemisphere in nearly 13 years.
“This is the most exciting thing we’ll do all year, potentially all decade,” Justin Brackett, SeaWorld’s birds curator said Wednesday.
The unnamed female nestling was born last month and has made tremendous strides in health despite having an arduous hatching experience.
Staff detected movement and noise coming from the egg on Sept. 7, but noticed she hadn’t emerged from the casing.
Heartwrenching video shared by SeaWorld shows the young hatchling struggling and failing to break free from the shell, but only making it through the inner membrane.
The SeaWorld team initially poked a hole in the egg, but ultimately needed to break her out from the shell entirely after five days when it became clear the hatchling wasn’t able to do it on her own.
The team later determined the chick had a beak malformation that impeded its hatching, Brackett said.
Despite the hiccup, the hatchling has made impeccable progress and is gaining a healthy rate of 5%-10% of her body weight per day — likely thanks to the steady diet of fish and “fish milkshakes” she gobbles down.
While the new emperor penguin chick will make an adorable addition to SeaWorld’s family, her birth marks great strides for the species, which is listed as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act due to the loss of Antarctic sea ice and rising sea levels caused by climate change.
Decreasing ice caps has caused emperor penguin populations to plummet — the Antarctica natives are dependent on sea ice as their habitat for breeding, raising chicks and molting, and newly hatched chicks lack waterproof feathers required to swim or survive in the ocean.
“Disappearing sea ice is becoming more frequent as our planet continues to warm and is having a devastating effect on penguin populations,” Katie Propp, Chief Operations Officer at Penguins International, said in a statement.
Unlike other species that produce multiple eggs a year, the emperor female lays only one egg once a year.
While other penguin males and females share incubation duties, the female emperor usually returns to the sea to feed after laying the egg, leaving the male to incubate the egg for more than two months when it does not eat. They usually mate for life, the World Wildlife Fund says.
But because the mother did not transfer the egg to the father, SeaWorld staff took the egg into their care.
Now the zoo is asking the public to help name the bird, putting three candidate names up for a vote: Pearl, Pandora and Astrid.
With Post wires