55 Music Concourse Dr.
Golden Gate Park
San Francisco CA
Regular Hours:


9:30 am – 5:00 pm


11:00 am – 5:00 pm
Members' Hours:


8:30 – 9:30 am


10:00 – 11:00 am

Please note: The Academy will be closing at 3:00 pm on 10/24 (final entry at 2:00 pm). We apologize for any inconvenience.

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April 11, 2013

Introducing a new penguin chick

On January 28, 2013, the Academy’s first African penguin chick since the new building opened hatched to a Species Survival Plan-recommended pair of penguins in our colony. The parents, Ty and Robben, have been raising their new chick diligently for the past few months. This is the first-ever chick for Ty (the mother), and the first for this couple, who did a good job taking turns sitting on the egg and defending their nest during the 37-day incubation period. We periodically candled the egg to check the chick’s development during this time.

Once the chick externally pipped (meaning it began to peck its way out of the egg), it took almost 24 hours for it to entirely emerge from its shell. The Animal Health Department did a quick exam and weight measurement to ensure its health before returning it to its parents. Then the entire family was moved to an off-exhibit area where the chick could grow up without the interference of other curious couples.

Penguin chick on day 8

Penguin chick on day 8

We were delighted that the parents did all of the rearing on their own, and continued to weigh the chick periodically to track its progression. At just under a month old, it started venturing out of the nest box. Shortly thereafter, it received a full physical including blood work to determine gender, and…it’s a BOY!!

When they first hatch, penguin chicks are covered in downy feathers, have soft feet, and their wings are flexible. In the last two months, our little guy has lost his down and replaced it with juvenile feathers that are gray and white in color. He now has a unique spot pattern on his belly that will remain the same for the rest of his life. Once his wings had hardened and his feet were rough, he was ready to start swimming. On day 57, we started introducing him to the water in a kiddie pool for a few minutes at a time, gradually increasing the duration.

Penguin chick on day 60

Penguin chick on day 60

Once he was comfortable swimming, we introduced him to his new exhibit and the rest of the colony slowly, over a period of days. In just 72 days, he has grown from 70 grams to 3 kg, close to full adult size. He is doing very well and we are excited to see how his personality develops as he matures.

Come by to welcome him to his new home, and be sure to enter the Name the Penguin Chick Contest before April 30. Academy staff will select the top three names based on originality and connection to the Academy’s mission to explore, explain and sustain life, including the African Penguin SSP program. The final three names will be put out to public vote, and the winning name will be announced during a naming ceremony in May.

Filed under: CAS Penguin Colony — admin @ 9:33 am

February 12, 2013

Pierre is turning 30!

Pierre has had a long and exciting life. He first hatched out at The Maryland Zoo in Baltimore on February 16, 1983. He was donated to Steinhart Aquarium in June of that same year and has been with us ever since. Staying put doesn’t mean that Pierre hasn’t had some adventures throughout his years here. He has lived in three different exhibits in three different buildings during his years at the Academy—the original Steinhart Aquarium building, our temporary Howard Street location, and African Hall in the new Academy—and has had numerous biologists and veterinarians tend to his everyday needs.

As part of the Species Survival Plan we have tracked the number of offspring Pierre has had and which zoos and aquariums most of them have gone off to. In his 30 years, Pierre has had several mates with whom he has produced 16 chicks. His lineage is now represented worldwide, with some of his chicks living as far away as Ohio, Idaho, and even Japan! These offspring have gone on to produce approximately 26 grand chicks and 4 great grand chicks! He is not currently recommended to breed since he is genetically very well represented.

Living to such an old age for an African Penguin means that Pierre has had some health obstacles that penguins in the wild, which have shorter life spans, would not have. He was the first penguin to wear a wetsuit to help him get through a difficult molt, a story immortalized in the children’s book Pierre the Penguin, written by Jean Marzollo and illustrated by Laura Regan. He even has his own Wikipedia page. Pierre has had allergies almost all of his life and gets allergy medication daily to keep him from excessive coughing. Every day, a biologist hides his allergy medication inside a fish, which he gets during one of our daily penguin feedings. Like humans, penguins can develop cataracts with age. Pierre had surgery on both of his eyes to remove cataracts and help improve his vision.

Pierre is doing very well overall and we are excited to see what future adventures he has in store for us. Pierre is banded on the right wing with a solid blue band, so keep an eye out for him when you come to visit or are watching on our web cam!

Pierre the Penguin

Pierre the Penguin

Filed under: CAS Penguin Colony,Individual Penguins,Pierre — admin @ 12:00 am

October 12, 2012

Raising Awareness

African Penguin Awareness Day 2012

This Saturday is African Penguin Awareness Day. SANCCOB, an organization that has been working in-situ with African penguins for 30 years, has provided materials for educators and kids to use this weekend. The African penguin population has plummeted 90% in the last 100 years and the species is currently listed as endangered by IUCN.

Click here to download posters and other educational materials.

Learn more about SANCCOB here.

Filed under: Penguin Science,Wild Penguins — admin @ 5:20 pm

April 24, 2012

World Penguin Day!

Every year on April 25th, coinciding with the annual migration of Adélie penguins living in Antarctica, we celebrate World Penguin Day!


Right around this time Adelie penguins migrate an average of about 8,100 miles during the year as they follow the sun from their breeding colonies to winter foraging grounds (remember they’re in the Southern hemisphere) and back again. Here at the Academy we display a different species of penguin, the African penguin, which doesn’t migrate but we love taking this opportunity to not only express our admiration for these lovable birds but also to consider our responsibility towards them. As of today eleven of the world’s eighteen penguin species are considered to be either vulnerable or endangered. This means that, if no measures are taken to protect them, there is a real risk that population levels for these species will not be sustainable and extinction will follow. This looms very large on our minds here because one unfortunate member of the endangered species list is the African penguin.


Penguins are vulnerable to overfishing of their food sources, climate change, pollution (especially oil spills), introduced predators, and human encroachment on  their breeding grounds. It is only by protecting their environment that we can ensure the future of penguins, which are now understood to be an important indicator of the health of our planet.  We need to recognize that the fundamental changes affecting penguins will one day, without a doubt, affect our own lives.

So let’s all take a moment on Wednesday to appreciate how fascinating this family of flightless birds is and why we need to preserve their natural environment. Some ideas? Come visit our colony here at the Academy and learn something new about penguin biology or behavior. Wear black and white or even a tuxedo in honor of countershading–dark backs and white undersides. Watch a movie or read a book about penguins. Order some wine from Penguin Bay Winery. Even better make a donation to an organization like SANCCOB which does a tremendous amount of work to conserve and protect wild African penguins.


Most importantly have a great World Penguin Day and do something, anything, penguinish!

Filed under: CAS Penguin Colony,Uncategorized — Penguins @ 9:54 am

December 20, 2011

New Penguin Sinclair

Sinclair, the newest member of the Academy’s African penguin colony, was introduced to our exhibit for the first time this past Monday and is the first new bird to be brought into the renovated building. She arrived in San Francisco on November 17th in great condition from Tulsa Zoo in Oklahoma. Below is a picture of her being picked up from the cargo area of San Francisco Airport:


Sinclair was hatched at New England Aquarium on March 28th, 1991. We received Sinclair as part of our commitment to cooperatively manage this endangered species with other zoos and aquariums accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA).  African penguins are managed under what’s referred to as a Green-level Species Survival Plan (SSP). This means that the population of the species in captivity is considered sustainable for the long-term which, in more detail, means that we can maintain 90% genetic diversity within the group for at least 100 years. Breeding is prioritized to maintain or increase gene diversity largely through considerations of mean kinship, avoidance of inbreeding, and the degree of uncertainty within an individual’s pedigree.

As a general rule any new animals (whether fish or snakes or penguins, etc…) brought into the Academy are subject to a 30 day quarantine period where they are isolated from the rest of the collection to avoid transmission of any pathogens they might be carrying. Sinclair did wonderfully down in what has previously been referred to as “the Love-shack” with her recommended mate Agulhas (green-banded male). The two almost immediately started sharing their nest-box and were seen bowing and shaking their heads to each-other, all good signs for the formation of a strong pair bond.

So far Sinclair has been doing well on exhibit and is sporting a green wing-band on her left wing to match Agulhas. She has been holding her own with the rest of the colony yet is very mellow to work with. It was a lovely surprise to find that she has not been at all aggressive with the biologists who’ve been caring for her. We haven’t seen her in Agulhas’s nest yet but the two have been in close proximity and have even been braying together.

Hopefully the two will have a long and prolific future!


Filed under: CAS Penguin Colony,Dunker — Penguins @ 5:57 pm
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