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The San Francisco Zoo's annual "March of the Penguins," to celebrate the graduation of their Magellanic penguin chicks from "fish school," is usually attended by hundreds of cheering fans. Unfortunately, COVID-19 restrictions forced this year's ceremony, held on August 8, 2020, to be limited to a handful of lucky guests and officials. However, the lack of fanfare did not appear to bother the six adorable graduates proudly waddling over to their permanent home on Penguin Island.
While some of the new graduates dived right in and instantly began to explore their exciting new habitat, others needed a slight nudge from their trainers to jump into the 200-foot-long pool. The hatchlings were all born in May. They spent the first few months of their lives with their birth parents or foster parents selected from among Penguin Island's 50 residents. Once old enough, the chicks were enrolled in the zoo's "fish school," where they were taught how to swim, eat whole fish, and interact with their caretakers.
Prior to the epic march, zoo officials announced the winning names for two of the male chicks — "Talented Mr. Slippery" and "Rookie." The innovative names were randomly picked from the hundreds submitted by fans in an online contest, which the zoo organized to involve the public in this popular event and to raise much-needed funds.
Named after Portuguese explorer Fernando de Magalhães, or Ferdinand Magellan, who first spotted the birds in 1520, Magellanic penguins are medium-sized penguins that are endemic to South America. One of four extant species of banded penguins — a group that includes African penguins, Galapagos penguins, and Humboldt penguins — the migratory birds spend summers on land in large breeding colonies and winters foraging at sea. Experts estimate that there are currently 1.3 million pairs of Magellanic penguins left in the wild on the coasts of Argentina and Chile. Unfortunately, the adorable birds are extremely susceptible to the local oil spills that kill about 42,000 penguins each year.
Resources: Sfzoo.org, patch.com