ATLANTA (January 29, 2014) - In celebration of Penguin Awareness Day, Georgia Aquarium unveils the brand new Georgia-Pacific Penguin Nursery. The nursery brings Aquarium animal care to the next level while enhancing the Aquarium’s already successful African penguin breeding program.  So far this year, the Aquarium has welcomed multiple African penguin chicks, which are currently on exhibit in the Cold Water Quest gallery. More chicks are expected to hatch throughout the months of January and February, with the new Penguin Nursery being fully utilized.

The Penguin Nursery allows animal care and training team members to tend to and incubate the penguin eggs in a climate-controlled and protected environment. The team will also monitor the development of the chicks during incubation prior to returning the eggs to the parents on exhibit to hatch. The new facility contains two specialized sections that aid animal care specialists in handling the chicks: a penguin fledging pool and an incubation and chick rearing area. Should a chick require hand rearing due to health or development concerns, the nursery provides a dedicated space to accommodate the specialized care needed. Once the chicks have matured and are ready to be weaned, they will return to the nursery, wean and fledge, a process where they lose their down feathers and begin growing juvenile plumage, before learning to swim in the fledging pool.

Once the penguin chicks hatch, the parents will raise the chick in the habitat. As the chicks mature, animal care and training staff will move them to the Penguin Nursery for weaning. Here, the birds fledge, learn to swim and socialize with trainers and other young penguins. Proceeds from the 2012 Aqua Vino, the Aquarium’s largest fundraiser, made this Penguin Nursery possible.

Starting this month, guests who partake in behind-the-scenes tours such as Quick Dip and Sea Keepers Tour will have the opportunity to see penguin eggs in the incubator and eventually chicks being weaned by animal care specialists.

Penguin chick exam

“Since 2012, our animal care and training staff have had the opportunity to care for and rear nine healthy penguins who serve as animal ambassadors in the Aquarium’s outreach programs, helping to raise awareness and educate guests about threats penguins face in the wild,” said Dr. Tim Mullican, chief zoological officer and senior vice president of zoological operations at Georgia Aquarium. “The new Georgia-Pacific Penguin Nursery will benefit the Aquarium’s commitment of helping to create sustainable animal populations both in the wild and in human care for the benefit of present and future generations.”

For the past four years, African penguins have been listed as endangered by the International Union of Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Georgia Aquarium is a participating member of the African penguin Species Survival Plan (SSP), which provides breeding pair recommendations for participating institutions affiliated by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA).  Future sustainability of the African penguin relies on conservation of natural habitats and research based on animals in other accredited AZA institutions. Many of the penguins at Georgia Aquarium are some of the most genetically valuable in human care and therefore are extremely important to the SSP.

“Educating the Aquarium’s guests and fans about our animals is an effective method of inspiring and motivating them to take action in conservation efforts,” said David Kimmel, president and chief operating officer at Georgia Aquarium. “This mission is demonstrated in the Aquarium’s Party with the Penguins event that will take place Jan. 18 – 20. This event celebrates Penguin Awareness Day and features educational and fun activities for families.”

On each day of the festivities, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., guests are encouraged to dress to impress in their penguin best. The Waddle Walk, complete with red carpet and photographers, will not only be entertaining but educational, featuring penguin facts and arts and crafts brought to guests in part by Georgia-Pacific.

For more information and to keep up to date with the penguin chicks’ development visit the Aquarium’s blog at www.georgiaaquaiumblog.org or sign up for the Georgia Aquarium e-newsletter at www.georgiaaquarium.org.

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ABOUT GEORGIA AQUARIUM 
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Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta, Georgia, contains more than 10 million gallons of water and has the largest collection of aquatic animals. The mission of Georgia Aquarium is to be an entertaining, educational and scientific institution featuring exhibits and programs of the highest standards; offering engaging and exciting guest experiences promoting the conservation of aquatic biodiversity throughout the world. Georgia Aquarium is an accredited member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums and the Alliance of Marine Mammal Parks and Aquariums. For additional information, visit www.georgiaaquarium.org.