(Hong Kong – 30 April 2011) 8 Gentoo penguins, featured in an upcoming Hollywood summer blockbuster, arrived in Hong Kong on 19 Feb 2011 and are settling in at Ocean Park, which they will call home. Comprised of 6 males and 2 females, aged between 4 – 9 years old, the 8 “stars” were born in Canada and have recently worked with renowned movie stars, Jim Carrey and Angela Lansbury, in filming a new movie modeled after the children’s book Mr. Popper’s Penguins. After completion of the movie, the penguins were moved from their previous home in New York to Ocean Park, where they have joined the current family of 52 penguins to be introduced to the Park’s new Polar-themed area, Polar Adventure, in 2012.
Mr. Howard Chuk, Terrestrial Life Sciences Senior Curator, said, “The 8 penguins are adorable and have very outgoing and playful personalities. They are very comfortable playing and interacting with people, and during the short time they have been here, they have already formed close friendships with our trainers and veterinarians. They are also bonding very well with the rest of the penguins and are living comfortably and healthily as a part of their tight-knit community.”
Ocean Park has acquired 62 captive born penguins in total from other countries since 2009 to participate in an in-park breeding program before their public debut at the Polar Adventure exhibit in 2012. Year 2010 was the first breeding season for the polar penguins and a total of two chicks were hatched – one of them, Ichiko, is developing in a very healthy manner in the company of its parents and the rest of the penguin community. The other chick, which received insufficient parental care during the incubation period and after birth due to its parents’ lack of experience, saw its health deteriorating despite being hand-raised and under 24-hour close monitoring by Ocean Park husbandry and veterinary staff, finally passed away in early March due to a failure to thrive.
“This penguin chick faced challenges from the very beginning when its parents abandoned the egg due to inexperience. The chick was adorable and we had all hoped we could save it. All of us, especially her caretakers, are affected deeply by the animals under our care and the loss of this chick was keenly felt,” said Howard.
In the wild, abandoned penguin eggs/chicks would not survive. In a human care environment where these eggs can be hatched in an incubator and chicks can be hand-raised by a professional animal care team, the survival rate is slightly increased to nearly 50% on average.
A 4-year-old male Gentoo penguin was also lost in early April after ingesting feather shafts during the molting season, which were found to have perforated its intestines causing irreversible damage. The penguin was euthanized for its own welfare, despite the best efforts of the Park’s veterinary team to correct the situation.
The Park’s new Polar Adventure theme zone is slated to open in 2012 and will feature animal ambassadors such as King, Rockhopper and Gentoo penguins, belugas, walruses and Largha seals. The exhibit will help the visiting public learn about global warming, as well as actions they may take at home affecting the polar region, and the plight of Antarctic species and their habitats as a result of climate changes.