FOREST PARK – “Opal” is the name of the penguin chick hatched Dec. 11 at the St. Louis Zoo.
The female southern rockhopper penguin hatched at Penguin & Puffin Coast is the first successful hatching of this species at the Zoo in 11 years, the zoo said in a statement Wednesday.
The Zoo had asked the public to help pick the chick’s name from among four suggested by the bird keepers. The winning name was Opal. Out of 36,620 votes cast, Opal received 16,806, or 45.89 percent. Runner-up was Pebbles (9,301 votes), followed by Luna (5,847 votes) and Lumi (4,666 votes).
Opal’s parents are mother Star and father Rocky, both 18. They had produced eggs before but hadn’t had any luck hatching them, so the keepers moved the new egg to an artificial incubator at the Bird House. They put a dummy egg in the nest so Star and Rocky could continue to practice incubating.
After 32 days, the chick started to break through its shell and needed penguin parents. But the nest Star and Rocky had made was in a hazardous spot right above open water. A chick’s down feathers are warm, but not waterproof, so a slip into the water can chill the chick very quickly.
So the keepers put the egg in the nest of another pair of southern rockhopper penguins — a female also named Rockie, age 25, and a male named Buddha, age 13 — who were nesting in a much safer location.
Rockie and Buddha had produced their own egg, too, around the same time, but it was not fertile. Now, they have become Opal’s foster parents.