Vilas Zoo welcomes African penguin chicks

Published: Apr. 5, 2019 at 9:39 PM CDT
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Dane County’s Henry Vilas Zoo announced the newest members of its family on Friday.

African penguin chicks Robben and Dassen hatched three days apart, on December 30 and January 2, according to a Dane County official.

The chicks now have their juvenile waterproof feathers in and will begin swimming lessons from staff in the coming week. Once they learn to swim, Robben and Dassen will be introduced to the other penguins in the zoo’s colony and make their debut to the public.

Newly hatched African penguins fledge for about 90 days and have a natural fear of water. While they are in their soft, fluffy down feather coat, they have no protection from the elements and cold water can give them hypothermia.

As the chicks grow, they start to lose their baby fuzz and get their adult plumage in. They can learn to swim once they develop their waterproof coat.

Robben and Dassen are named after islands in South Africa with active penguin breeding colonies.

Those interested in seeing the Henry Vilas Zoo’s African penguin colony and many other species can do so on “Kids Day,” on Saturday, April 6. All day long, carousel and train rides will be free at the zoo. Kids 12 and under will also be able to get one free hot dog and ice cream treat at the Glacier Grille.

A full list of activities taking place on “Kids Day” at the Henry Vilas Zoo include:

10:00 a.m.—Orangutan Keeper Chat

10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.—Discovery Cart (taking place by the Big Cats)

10:30 a.m., 11:00 a.m., & 11:30 a.m.—Teddy Bear Story Time (taking place by the bear exhibits)

11:00 a.m.—Otter Feeding

12:00 p.m.—Polar Bear Keeper Chat

12:30 p.m. to 3:00 p.m.—Sensory Play Activities (taking place at the Animal Health Center)

1:00 p.m.—Live Animal Program (taking place at the Education Pavilion)

2:00 p.m.—Seal Feeding

Later in the month, the zoo will celebrate “Party for the Planet.” This commemoration of the zoo’s conservation work will take place on April 27.

In addition to tree climbs and games, there will be a solar presentation by Madison Gas and Electric, electric vehicles, and other Earth friendly educational displays designed to call attention for steps everyone can take to reduce carbon emissions and improve the health of our planet.

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