The most adorable resident of Chicago’s world-renowned aquarium finally has a name.
Chick 23, a rockhopper penguin born at Shedd Aquarium last June, was named by members of the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago community, who voted to name the little guy Diego.
Diego has come a long way in just over 10 months.
Born weighing just two ounces, Diego now stands around 18 inches tall and weighs somewhere between four and six pounds, the typical size for adult rockhopper penguins. According to his trainers, he’s fitting in well with the group and is observing, but not participating, in mating season. That’s still a few years off.
“He will sometimes hang out near Ruggles” — a female penguin hatched in 2013 — “and he is always curious about what is going on around him,” said Lana Vanagasem, Shedd’s manager of penguins, sea otters, and dogs. (Yes, there are dogs at the aquarium.)
Watching Diego and other penguins play is a great way to spend the afternoon, but the animals provide more than entertainment.
The wild rockhopper population is in rapid decline due to pollution and commercial fishing.
Conservation and research efforts are vital to protect the rockhopper and other vulnerable penguin populations.
When close to 300 orphaned or abandoned African penguin chicks were taken in by SANCCOB, a seabird rescue organization near Cape Town, South Africa, Shedd sent specialists from their marine mammal department to help treat, feed, and clean the baby birds to prepare them for life in the wild.
Ongoing research and conservation efforts make trips like this possible, as professional staff are well-versed on penguin health and anatomy, and they’re able to stay current on penguin handling and the best approaches for safe interactions.
In addition to helping his fellow flightless friends, Diego helped a group of very important people too.
Spending time in the hospital, especially for an extended stay, is difficult for kids and their families. There’s uncertainty and sometimes painful or exhausting treatments, not to mention feeling homesick, lonely, and missing friends from school.
That’s why Shedd offered patients, families, and staff of Lurie Children’s Hospital the unique opportunity to name the new penguin. Opportunities like this are a great way to surprise and delight young patients and families during their stay, hopefully bringing a little joy into an otherwise stressful and difficult experience.
Adding to the fun, a few of the children (with a little help from a penguin or two) got to make the announcement on World Penguin Day, April 25.
Whether it’s making special memories for kids or making conservation a reality, you’re a penguin powerhouse.
According to this helpful guide, my penguin name is Skippy Waddleton. Find out yours!