Since mid-April, after a breeding period of about 33 days eleven chicks of the endangered rockhopper penguins have been hatched. Further eggs are still being incubated.

The rearing of the chicks calls for task sharing: The penguin parents take turns in keeping their chicks warm and feeding them with pre-digested food. Conservation breeding in zoos is very important, as the penguins' situation in the open environment looks very sad. "the northern rockhopper penguins breed on the group of islands by Tristan da Cuhna in the southern Atlantic and they are greatly endangered. The main causes of their endangerment are overfishing, ocean pollution and climate change", explains zoo director Dagmar Schratter.

There are currently only 96 northern rockhopper penguins living in European zoos. The largest colony with 45 adult animals resides in Schönbrunn. The zoo also runs the European Endangered Species Breeding Programme (EEP) for this very striking animal with the yellow feather tufts on its head. Every year there are offspring at Schönbrunn, something that doesn't happen in any other zoo with such regularity. Since the Polarium was opened in 2004 Schönrunn has handed over 41 young rockhopper penguins to other zoos. Schratter adds: "with our many years of experience in breeding and keeping we would like to help other zoos, where breeding has not been successful, to build up their own colonies."

May 3, 2017 Living photo: Daniel Zupanc

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