​African Penguins at the Hungary Zoo Make First Appearance​​

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February 28, 2021

Two rare African penguins at the Hungary zoo have made their first appearance on Feb. 27. Meet baby penguins Lila and Gelb, who were born in January, and are the only rare species found on the continent.

The workers at the Hungary zoo in Szegad, about 105 miles from Budapest, have set up areas for the African penguins and both parents are taking part in bringing up the little ones. Lila and Gelb are between 16 to 24 inches long, and weigh between 2.2 to 8.8 pounds.

The African penguins belong to a species with a population of less than 200,000, a tenth of what it was a century ago, and it is not unusual for them to be born in captivity. Life expectancy is greater at the zoo in Hungary, about 20 years compared with 10 years in the wild. The Szeged zoo founded in 1989 is the newest and the largest one in Hungary comprising an area of 110 acres.

To penguins, the African penguins are:

They have a robust, torpedo-shaped body with black feathers on their back, flippers, and head while white feathers cover their front with the exception of horseshoe-shaped black stripe on the chest. Following the penguin’s first few molts a white stripe will develop around its cheek and throat. The two African penguins at the Hungary zoo have a bare patch above their eyes to assist with regulating their body temperature.

When not hunting for food in the water, African penguins are found along rocky shores or brushy coastal areas.

So, what do the African penguins at the Hungary zoo eat?

They feed on 25 species of fish, such as sardine and anchovy but also prey on squid and krill. A penguin may eat up to one pound of food or up to 14% of their weight. African penguins face predation by gulls, feral cats and mongoose while nesting on land, while sharks and fur seals hunt African penguins in the water.

There are no set breeding seasons for the African penguins at the Hungary zoo, however, most penguin pairs are monogamous and will remain together over several breeding years. The male will prepare a nest by digging a shallow burrow in sand or in brush using guano (penguin waste) and any materials nearby to complete the nest for the female to lay two eggs. Both the male and female share the nesting and chick duties, keeping the young safe from predators and warm temperatures.

Overall, the African penguins at the Hungary zoo can hatch between 38 and 42 days and will leave the nest when they are between 60 to 130 days of age.