ATLANTA (WXIA) -- They're fluffy and cute and are only about two months old.
Two South African penguin chicks are the latest additions to the Georgia Aquarium. Their genders aren't known yet. They hatched within two weeks of each other in early January and have been hand-reared behind-the-scenes by Aquarium animal training and veterinary staff members.
Georgia Aquarium is a participating member of the African penguin Species Survival Plan. "Georgia Aquarium is committed to conserving and protecting our aquatic world and the species that inhabit it, including the endangered South African penguin," said Billy Hurley, chief zoological officer and senior vice president of zoological operations, Georgia Aquarium.
"As leaders in aquatic animal care, conservation and research, we are very proud to welcome our first-ever African penguin chicks to our family at Georgia Aquarium. We will continue our commitment of helping to create sustainable animal populations both in the wild as well as in human care for the benefit of present and future generations."
In 2010, Georgia Aquarium redesigned the African penguin habitat in the Georgia-Pacific Cold Water Quest gallery in order to create an environment that closely mimics their natural environment.
Since hatching, the chicks have gone through considerable changes in a short amount of time. Born with fluffy down feathers, the penguin chicks are currently fledging -- a process where they lose their down feathers and begin growing juvenile plumage.
After becoming fully fledged, the chicks will be "waterproof" and the animal care and training team will begin introducing the animals to water so they can learn to swim in a special pool away from the colony.
Once they are stronger swimmers, the animal care and training team will gradually introduce the chicks to the penguin colony and into the penguin habitat.
The chicks will serve as animal ambassadors in the Aquarium's outreach programs, helping to raise awareness and educate guests about threats penguins face in the wild.
For more information on the Aquarium's South African penguins visit the Aquarium's new blog.
To purchase the all-new Total Ticket, please visit www.georgiaaquarium.org or call 404-581-4000.
African penguins are listed as endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List.