GATLINBURG, Tenn. (WATE) - Ripley's Aquarium of the Smokies introduced three baby penguins and needs your help to name them.
They are three African Black-Footed Penguins, native to South Africa, and it is all part of their efforts to help save the engangered birds.
The babies do not looking much like babies anymore. At about three months old they are almost fully grown, though we can expect a change of color.
The so-called juvenile penguins are unique since they were born at the aquarium in Gatlinburg.
"They are endangered for several reasons. They only lay about four eggs every year," said Marine Biologist Cassie Elias.
Senior Aviculturist Megan Klose added, "There was over a million animals at the turn of the century, the 1900s, and now you're looking at a population of about 55,000."
Ripley's Aquarium is working to help prevent them from facing extinction.
"We're doing a lot of work. We have changed their diet a lot. They're getting more outside time. They're getting different types of vitamins, and that has really helped them in laying their eggs," Elias said.
Several of the penguins in their group have mated and produced several eggs. One baby was born last February. The three newest ones late last year.
"If the population keeps decreasing out in the wild, young ones can be raised in a way that would allow them to go back out in the wild and they're not going to all be related to each other," Klose said.
Now the three youngest are ready to be introduced to the rest, increasing the colony to over thirty.
It is a long process though. Two of them are still learning to swim by themselves and then with the other penguins to make sure they can socialize.
"They start getting some whole food. They start getting adjusted to being around more people and more penguins," Elias said.
One of the young penguins is already on exhibit at Ripley's Aquarium, and pretty soon they expect the other two to be in here as well so you can come here and see all of them.
"The other two hopefully by the end of the week will be on here and interacting well with the rest of the colony," Klose said.
Those three young penguins, one male and two females, still need to be named and you can help.
The aquarium compiling a list of names for you to vote on:
Penguins Haley and Glen are the parents of two of the babies. The third was born to Nick and Doza. There is one male and two female penguins to name.
You can vote starting today on three names for the new penguins.
Here are the top 10 names you can choose from:
- Lady Bird
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