Toronto Zoo welcomes 4 new baby African penguins

Four new African penguin chicks are joining the Toronto Zoo's already impressive roster of cute baby animals.

The chicks have yet to be named but you can see them in an indoor viewing area between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. every day beginning next Friday, April 14. 

The zoo released a video clip of one of the new hatchlings squawking away.

Lots of penguin parents

Two of the chicks belong to penguin pair Thandiwe and Matata and two are the offspring of Eldon and Chupa, though three of the eggs were incubated by surrogate parents Ziggy and DJ as well as Squeak and Pedro, according to a statement released by the zoo.

The breeding was recommended by the Species Survival Plan (SSP), a program developed by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, an organization based in the U.S., to help ensure the survival of certain threatened species.  

The chicks hatched at separate times throughout the month of February and March. 

"Incubation by the parents occurs for just over a month, then the hatched chicks stay with their parents in the nest for another three weeks." the zoo said.

The chicks are old enough to be hand-raised by the zoo's penguin keepers, who recently gave the little ones their first swimming lesson. 

"Currently, our Keepers are teaching the chicks to be hand-fed fish and to get on a scale for daily weigh-ins," the zoo said. The statement said the zoo hopes the hatchlings will be ready join its penguin colony in about 80 days.

Girl power

Three out of the four chicks are female, which the zoo says is good news for the predominantly male North American zoo population.

The zoo said because the male and female penguins look so alike, they had to use DNA tests to find out their sex.

"The arrival of these chicks signifies a great achievement for these new penguin parents and the African Savanna Wildlife Care staff," the zoo said.

"The Toronto Zoo penguins help draw attention to this imperilled species. Of the 18 penguin species around the world, the African penguin is one of the most endangered." 

The zoo said the current population size in the wild for the African penguin is half of what it was 40 years ago, with fewer than 20,000 breeding pairs left in South Africa.

The declining population is a result of lack of food due to climate change and fishing, as well as disease, predation and pollution.