03/09/2012 02:47 EST | Updated 05/09/2012 05:12 EDT

Penguin Chick In Toronto Zoo: Breeding Program Has First Result

Toronto Zoo
TORONTO - Paired-up penguins at the Toronto Zoo are producing some results.

Officials at the zoo say Gozi and Puff — one of six pairs in its African penguin breeding program — have hatched their first chick.

The zoo says the chick hatched Jan. 28 has been hand-raised by staff because the parents rejected the egg as it was hatching.

The baby penguin will be known as either Eldon or Ellie, once its gender has been determined.

Two other eggs have been laid by another pair, Colby and Greenbird, and it's expected they will hatch later this month.

The zoo says all six breeding pairs — including males Buddy and Pedro who came to the zoo as a couple but were matched with female partners — have been nesting and breeding over the past few months.

Buddy and his partner Farai hatched two chicks in early February, but they didn't survive beyond a few days, the zoo said in an update on Friday.

Pedro and his partner Thandiwe have not yet produced eggs but are reportedly engaging in courtship and nesting behaviour.

Zoo officials say the first three weeks are most critical for the chicks' growth and survival.

"The hatching and survival of the first chick helps to secure a genetically healthy population," said Tom Mason, curator of birds and invertebrates at the zoo.

"African penguins are a high priority species, and these recent additions to our zoo family are a step in the right direction for the species as a whole."

The zoo initiated the breeding program for the endangered species in November, pairing the penguins based on their strongest genetic compatibility.

The other two pairs are DJ and Ziggy, and Flip and Shaker.

The zoo says the breeding program will continue until the end of April, at which time the penguins will be reintroduced as a group in the outdoor exhibit.

The new chick will be on view to public at the penguin house starting Saturday.

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