Moody Gardens is ringing in the new year with their newest arrival, an adorable King penguin chick that hatched out on New Year’s Day inside of the South Atlantic exhibit at the Aquarium Pyramid. The chick hatched at 192 grams, and at only two weeks old has almost tripled in size, now weighing around 558 grams.
King penguins in the wild are typically fully grown at around 2 years of age while in captivity they are considered fully-fledged, meaning they are ready to feed and swim on their own, at about 10 months old.
The proud penguin parents are both first-time parents. The mother is Astro, who hatched at Moody Gardens in February of 2018, and the father is Watson, an original Moody Gardens King penguin that was collected as an egg during an expedition to the South Georgia Island in 1998, before the opening of the Aquarium Pyramid. “We are excited to be able to add Watson, one of our original penguins, to the gene pool because this helps us and other facilities to diversify the population,” added Senior Biologist Maggie Reynolds.
Having King penguins on exhibit allows Moody Gardens to educate the public about the issues that these birds face in the wild. King penguins, which are native to the Sub-Antarctic region of the world, are listed as Least Concern by the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List, and wild colonies are increasing in population. However, they do face threats in the wild due to factors such as climate change and overfishing. Limited food resources cause these birds to have to travel further from shore to hunt for fish, and therefore renders them more vulnerable to predation and other natural elements.
King penguins are the second-largest penguin in the world, behind the Emperor penguin. They can be distinguished by the bright orange color on the bottom of their long and pointy beak, as well as the yellow feathers on the side of the head and chest area. The King penguin is the largest species inside of the South Atlantic exhibit at Moody Gardens and can be seen from anywhere on the live penguin webcam found on MoodyGardens.org.
The Moody Gardens Aquarium Pyramid is one of the largest and most diverse aquariums in the United States. In addition to the King penguins, five other species including Gentoo, Chinstrap, Macaroni, and Rockhopper penguins also call the South Atlantic Exhibit home. The warm-climate Humboldt penguins live in an exhibit right next door to their chilly-aired friends. With over one million gallons of water, the Aquarium Pyramid houses marine life from five distinct environments. Not only does the collection include penguins, but they also have stingrays, sharks, seals, sea lions, and over 200 different species of fish.