- Associated Press - Sunday, March 9, 2014

GATLINBURG, Tenn. (AP) - A rare African black-footed penguin is on display at Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies in Gatlinburg.

African penguins are an endangered species whose population is estimated to have been reduced from one million to about 55,000 since 1930, due to over-fishing and pollution.

According to The Mountain Press (https://bit.ly/1fhEtHo), the as-yet-unnamed penguin is a male that was born at the aquarium in January.

It weighs close to five pounds and is being monitored by the Ripley husbandry team.

This is the second African black-footed penguin to be born at the aquarium. The first was born in May 2013, and the two penguins are cousins.

A total of 35 penguins are now at the aquarium, 33 of them from outside zoos and aquariums.

Senior Aviculturist Megan Klose said it’s important for the penguins to be born at the aquarium.

“As part of the SSP (Species Survival Plan), we don’t want to pull from the wild, so if we can breed penguins in aquariums, that allows us to continually keep a population in the aquarium without pulling from the wild,” she said. “And if the number in the wild continues to go down, it’s really important to have some that are raised in a way in which they could be released into the wild if needed.”

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Information from: The Mountain Press, https://www.themountainpress.com

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