TYLER, TX (KLTV) - Caldwell Zoo is introducing Duncan, their first African black-footed penguin chick, to the East Texas community.
Zoo officials say Duncan's arrival is important because his species is declining. Millions of African penguins used to exist, but now only about 10 percent still remain in the wild.
"African penguins are an endangered species; in the wild their numbers are decreasing quiet rapidly, so for an African penguin to be born in a zoo or aquarium, it is very important because it can help maintain a genetic line that one day in the far off future could possibly also help the wild population," supervisor of the bird department, Nikki Hartman, said.
Duncan's population is part of the Species Survival Plan (SSP). The plan monitors the genetics of the North American population to help maintain healthy animals in zoos.
"It's very important to keep the population in North American zoos stable and strong and growing this way; one day in the future, when the wild population is stable, we can utilize the [future] penguins in the North American zoos [...] to possibly help that population rebound and grow," she said.
Through the Association of Zoos and Aquariums Saving Animals From Extinction program (SAFE), participants are also able to help penguin populations in their natural habitat. Issues such as oil spills and nesting space have led to a reduction in numbers.
"We manage animals through the SSP in the zoos themselves; the SAFE program takes a step beyond that and bridges the gap not only in what's happening in the zoos themselves, but within the country that they're from and in the wild, and looking at their conservation there as well," curator of birds and reptiles, Yvonne Stainback, said. "So we're trying to spread out and [figure out] how can we help these animals in the wild, not just in our collections."