ST. LOUIS (KMOV.com) -- One of the most loved and entertaining exhibits at the St. Louis Zoo is Penguin Cove. Right now, the bird keepers are raising and nurturing two baby penguins to be ready to add to the main exhibit.
The first one, a King Penguin chick, was born two months ago. It's already almost the size of an adult penguin, but it still has its down grey plumage, which will eventually molt and turn into black and white swimming feathers.
Right now, the King Penguin chick is in penguin "boarding school." The bird keepers have the baby away from the main exhibit while they train it to be fed by the keepers’ hands and while they wait for it to molt. However, to keep the baby acclimated to the colony it will eventually rejoin, the keepers bring up adult penguins from the exhibit for playtime with the baby.
One of the adults that often volunteers for playtime is the baby's dad. The bird keepers said the dad is very protective and stays by the baby's side while they're together.
The other baby penguin the St. Louis Zoo is caring for right now is a 3-week-old Humboldt Penguin. The bird keepers call this little one a 'miracle.' The Humboldt egg was laid in the outside exhibit, where the Humboldts typically reside year-round. However, the consistent below freezing temperatures in St. Louis this winter made it too cold for the birds and they were brought inside.
"We've had unseasonably cool weather in the negative temps, so below freezing is getting a little cold for them," said Sydney Oliveira, the zoological manager of birds. She said when they brought the egg inside they were worried at first.
"We can hold the egg up to a light and see what's going on on the inside and we didn't see the chick moving initially," said Oliveira.
Oliveira said they placed the egg in an incubator to warm it up and within a few days it hatched.
"Every birth is really important for the species because they are a threatened species and we wanted to give it the best possible chance of surviving," said Oliveira.
Humboldt Penguins are from South America, specifically Peru and Chile, which is why the St. Louis temperatures this winter have been too cold for them.
Both baby penguins still need to have their genders identified through a blood test. The keepers say there is no way to physically determine the gender of a penguin at any age. Once their gender results come back they will name each baby.
Both of them, when they are ready, will eventually be part of the Penguin Cove exhibit.
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