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Pa. aviary hoping for penguin mating

Pittsburgh -- Officials at the National Aviary in Pittsburgh say they're hoping a pair of African penguins will mate now that the species has been declared endangered.

The institution is a national leader in protecting the species but has never had a birth at the facility, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported Wednesday.

The species, which has declined from 141,000 about 50 years ago to 25,000 today, was officially declared endangered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Sept. 28 and by an international conservation body in June.

African penguins are threatened by commercial fishing, destruction of their habitat, oil pollution and other factors, wildlife experts say. "Everybody loves penguins. The challenge is they're trying to survive," Steve Sarro, the aviary's director of animal programs, said.

The aviary's prospective penguin parents-to-be are in a private area Sarro calls "the honeymoon suite," secluded from other penguins.

They have not mated yet but should be ready soon in what their internal clock is telling them is summertime, since their natural habitat is in the southern hemisphere, Sarro says.

If the mating is successful, it should produce two eggs cared for by both parents during a 38-day incubation period.

Sarro says he is anxiously waiting for a successful mating.
"We are going to celebrate," he said. "Trust me."

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI).

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