In case you didn't get the memo — or see the trending hashtag on Twitter — today marks Penguin Awareness Day. Created to shed light on the funky, water-loving flightless birds, the celebration comes on the heels of the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden's recent welcoming of two new hatchlings.
The first little blue penguin was born on Jan. 6 and the second Jan. 7 to mom Reuben and dad Chip. The pair are the first Zoo Babies of 2020 and they've yet to be named. You can submit your own ideas via Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Come summer, they'll move into new exhibit Roo Valley. (Visitors will have a chance to see them once they're there.) Little blue penguins are the smallest of their kind, only growing to an average height of 33 centimeters. Known for their slate-blue plumage, these creatures can be found primarily on the coastlines of southern Australia and New Zealand. The Cincy Zoo is home to North America's largest colony of the species.
“It’s a good time to be a penguin at the Cincinnati Zoo,” said curator of aviculture Jennifer Gainer in a press release. “The little blue penguins’ new habitat is going to be fantastic! There will be a lot of fun, enriching features that will encourage natural behaviors and allow the colony… to stay out longer in the season.”
The new penguin exhibit will feature an underwater viewing area and interactive elements (made possible by RFID technology).
“Our goal throughout the zoo, as part of our More Home to Roam capital campaign expansion, is to give animals better homes and visitors a better experience. The little blue and African penguin habitats will certainly do that,” said Cincinnati Zoo director Thane Maynard in the same release.
Earlier today, the zoo tweeted that the 2-month-old little blue penguin chicks got their first swimming lessons. Before the chicks can take to the water, they first have to wait for their downy feathers, which aren't waterproof, to fall out. The chicks are expected to be introduced to the rest of the colony in the next few weeks.
2-month-old little blue penguin chicks got their first swimming lessons! Not surprising: they were naturals in the water! Penguin chicks have to wait until most of their downy feathers fall out before they can swim because downy feathers are not waterproof #penguinawarenessday pic.twitter.com/NnsolU6rkL— Cincinnati Zoo (@CincinnatiZoo) January 20, 2020
The zoo kicked off Penguin Awareness Day with a king penguin parade as part of their ongoing event Penguin Days, which offers discounted wintertime admission through March 13. Along with the blue penguins, the zoo is home to four other subspecies — king penguins, Magellanic penguins and African penguins. The latter are considered endangered in the wild, with populations having dropped by 50 percent over the past 30 years, according to the Cincinnati Zoo.
Their expanded area in Roo Valley will include more indoor space to encourage breeding and provide more nesting space. The hope is to grow their colony from 11 to over 30 African penguins.
If you missed the parade this morning — which unfolded at 11 a.m. — you can check it out below via Cincinnati Zoo's Facebook.