"Little America"

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Historic images of "Little America",
Adelie penguin (Pygoscelis adeliae) .

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Penguin "Little America", mounted and complete with egg that it hatched from in captivity.


First captive born penguin in the world.
The first penguin ever born in the world in captivity was Little America born on July 3, 1966 at the Milwaukee County Zoo in Wisconsin USA. The following information and historical facts are from the beginning of this event that actually began with Admiral Byrd.
Milwaukee County Zoo Director George Speidels first experience with penguins was in 1936 when 12 Emperor penguins were brought by ship by Admiral Richard E. Byrd for the Brookfield Zoo near Chicago. The 12 Emperors died within two months due to the lack of knowledge of Aspergellosis. Building the new Milwaukee Zoo Penguin exhibit with the necessary air filtration and careful attention to keeping water, food, and air purified, Speidel send Joseph Iding to Antarctica to capture Adelie Penguins for the new exhibit. Joseph returned from a nearly disastrous trip in February 1965. From a mated pair of Adelie Penguins, the zoo was successful in hatching the first penguin born in captivity in the world on July 3, 1966. We hope you enjoy reading this historical event!
Adelie penguins (Pygoscelis adeliae). This penguin inhabits the islands and waters of the Antarctic and subantarctic regions. It feeds primarily on krill and small fish. It is a highly social bird, and lives in large colonies (rookeries) that can contain tens of thousands of individuals. It reaches a maximum height of around 70 centimetres.
What is interesting from an historical perspecitive is that this bird's parents were collected from Antartica in the 1960's (see documents below) and this is the first ever penguin to be born in captivity anywhere in the world. The documents below provide a fascinating and complete insight into the work of Admiral R.E.Byrd, the expedition to Antartica, collecting of specimens and the breeding program in the USA.

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Letter from Antartica.

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Admiral Richard E Byrd's Antartic expedition.

Timeline for the capture and breeding of Penguins in the USA

May 1935 - Admiral Byrd delivers Emperor Penguins to Brookfield Zoo
July 1, 1935 - All Emperor Penguins die from Aspergillosis
Sept. 26, 1964 - National Science Foundation completes arrangements for penguins for the Milwaukee County Zoo
Jan. 29, 1965 - Joe Iding arrives at McMurdo Antarctica for penguin capture
Feb. 5, 1965 - Penguins captured for the Milwaukee County Zoo
Feb. 14, 1965 - Joseph Iding returns from expedition with Adelie penguins
May 29, 1966 - Little America's Parents lay egg of the soon Little America
July 3, 1966 - Little America was born
Aug. 13, 1966 - Little America dies

Antarctica Expedition Facts related to the Milwaukee penguin capture

September 27, 1964 the Milwaukee Journal revealed the National Science Foundation and the Navy completed arrangements on Saturday September 26, 1964. The expedition is to provide the Milwaukee County Zoo with Adelie penguins.
January 29.1965 Joseph Iding arrived at McMurdo Antarctica. See Joseph's Itinerary for detailed information at the end of these facts for personal documentation and important notes about the expedition.
13 chicks and 3 mated pairs were captured on February 5, 1965 by Joseph M. Iding Curator of Birds at the Milwaukee County Zoo.
From the Antarctica Expedition, 12 Adelies went to the St. Louis Zoo and 22 Adelies to Baltimore Zoo.
Joseph Iding returned with Adelei penguins on February 14, 1965. Arriving at Milwaukee 7.10 PM.
The chicks brought to Milwaukee were in the area of 2 months of age because it is known that older Adelie penguins imported to United States Zoos have not survived.
Itinerary for Joseph M. Iding Antarctica Expedition

All times and dates are local.
Andrews AFB (Wash. DC) 1/23 8:00 A.M.
1/23 5:00 P.M. Alameda NAS (California) 1/24 9:00 A.M.
1/24 5:00 P.M. Hickam AFB (Hawaii) 1/25 2.30 P.M.
1/25 11:30 P.M. Pago Pago, Samoa 1/26 1:30 A.M.
1/27 9:00 A.M. Christchurch, New Zealand 1/29 9:00 A.M.
1/29 7:50 P.M. McMurdo, Antarctica
1/30 Unpack and assemble penguin crates etc.
1/31 Pack food, tents, and all equipment. Check everything.
2/1 Fly to Cape Crozier, unpack gear, pitch tents, etc.
2/2 Band and toe-punch penguins. (9 A.M. To 9 P.M.)
2/3 Band and toe-punch penguins (10 A.M. To 9 P.M.)
2/4 Toe-punch penguins. Observe and collect penguins. Have 15 nice young birds in pen on hillside. At 8:00 P.M. Bob Wood received radio message from Jack Twiss at McMurdo asking me to bring at least 18 birds. Released 4 of the birds I had.
2/5 Observed adult birds closely. Collected 4 adult pairs, one adult with his chick, and several more young birds. Carried all birds up hill to holding pens near camp. At 8:30 P.M. Bob Wood received radio message from Jack Twiss at McMurdo asking me to bring at least 20 birds back to McMurdo.
2/6 Released 2 pairs of adult birds and a couple of young. Collected a different pair of adult birds from farther down the hillside. Banded all of the collected birds and started feeding.
2/7 Broke Camp, crated birds, loaded helicopter, returned to McMurdo, unloaded helicopter, built pens, uncrated and fed birds. Averaged about 8 fish.
2/8 Fed and watered birds; various conferences. Birds ate better, averaging about 11 fish.
2/9 Fed, watered, and cleaned up birds. Ate an average of about 14 fish. This two day delay is due to a hurricane between Nandi, Fiji Islands and Christchurch, New Zealand.
2/10 Moved birds down close to the sea. This seemed to perk them up considerably. Fed birds - averaged 16 fish. Moved water pump down to the sea and cleaned up the birds. Expect to leave at 7 A.M. tomorrow.
2/11 3 A.M. - lift off canceled. Fed and cleaned up birds (now a big project because of the distance from building where fish are thawed).
2/12 3:30 A.M. - lift off canceled, again. Fed and cleaned up birds. Average about 17 fish now. Keeping the birds close to the sea may be a life saver. They are much more active here then when they were up near the Biolab. 8:00 A.M. - lift off back on. Crated birds and packed everything in Nodwell (weather too bad for helicopters to fly). Extremely rough trip to airfield in Nodwell - birds very badly shaken. Lift off precisely 4:46 P.M.
2/13 Touched down at Christchurch at 2:07 A.M. Had air conditioner here. Life off 3:35 A.M. All birds look pretty good. Fairly cool in the plane. Have blocks of ice and cold water aboard. About 7:30 A.M. one engine developed trouble and was turned off. Touched down at Nandi, Fiji Islands at 8:53 A.M. Very warm here but we had portable air conditioner. Pilot decided to go back to Christchurch because Canton is so hot and doesn't have facilities to repair engine. Lift off from Nandi at 10:24 A.M. Right after lift off the planes air conditioner failed. Very warm on plane - a poor condition for the birds. Radioed Christchurch to have more ice ready when we touch down. Touched down in Christchurch, again, at 11:34 P.M.
2/14 Touched down at Nandi, again, at 5:14 A.M. had portable air conditioner, but it was still very warm. Lift off from Nandi 6:04 A.M. The crew discovered that a valve in the heating system or air conditioner isn't working properly - allowing heat to circulate under the floor. It cant be repaired until we reach Hawaii.
2/13 (Crossed I.D.L.) Touched down on Canton Island at 11:14 A.M. No portable air conditioner here. Kept the engine running while refueling to keep the plane's air conditioner going, but it sure isn't helping much, if at all. Steam is rising from the water on the floor. The bottoms of the crates are almost too hot to touch. If the birds survive this, it will be a miracle. Began to sprinkle my birds with cool water. Lift off from Canton 11:47 A.M. Put a chunk of ice in each compartment of my crates and kept sprinkling birds. All but one looked pretty good - considering. Put as many of my crates as was possible on top of seal crates. Put the balance back aft where it seemed a little cooler. At 12:35 P.M. One of my young birds died (#56489) - probably due to excess heat. Have been and will continue to sprinkle cool water over the birds. All during the flight I opened the crates at least twice an hour to help dissipate the heat. The crates should have legs to allow a little air circulation under them. Touched down at Hickam AFB (Hawaii) at 6:52 P.M. Had two air conditioners here. They cooled the plane down real nice. It took a while to check the plane, refuel, replace the faulty valve, and check through customs. Lifted off from Hawaii at 9:32 P.M. From here on, all the way home, the temperature in the plane was at freezing and below. The crates froze into the water on the floor of the plane.
2/14 Touched down at Alameda NAS (California) at 7:39 A.M. No portable air conditioner here, but very cool outside. The temperature in the plane didn't go above 40 degrees. Found a phone and called George Speidel at about 8:45 A.M. Lifted off from Alameda NAS at 9:36 A.M. Within an hour the temperature in the plane dropped to freezing. Touched down in St. Louis at 4.54 P.M. The birds still look fairly good - quite lively. Some are quite nervous and the adults lost much weight. Lifted off from St. Louis at 6:00 P.M. Touched down in Milwaukee at 7:10 P.M.
Total miles traveled by air - 26,400
Note; The banding and toe-punching day 1,2 and part of day 3, were from an ongoing program in which Joe was helping in this work in addition to the capture of his birds for the zoo.
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J Iding notes relating to this bird

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Correspondence with the zoo

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Penguins in captivity.

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Penguin "Little America", mounted and complete with egg that it hatched from in captivity.

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Penguin "Little America", as a newly hatched chick.

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Penguin "Little America", as a newly hatched chick.

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Penguin "Little America", the egg was also retained.

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"Little America".

Little America Facts

Little America's egg was laid on Sunday, May 29, 1966. This egg is the first Adelie penguin egg laid in captivity in the United States. 3 days later on June 1, another egg was laid. Parents names are Vivian and Joe.

Vivian was the first penguin to lay an egg in an American Zoo.

Little America born on July 3, 1966

Little America is believed to be the first penguin born in captivity.

July 12, 1966 1 unhatched egg taken after 37 days from Vivian and Joe to be placed in an incubator. The egg was believed to be infertile, and in fact was. The egg was removed so the parents could devote more time to Little America.

Vivian, the mother of Little America died on Thursday August 11, 1966 possibly due to the result of a fall or hard landing leaping out of the swimming tank. Preliminary examination showed a ruptured stomach. It was originally reported that Joe the father was the one that died. According to the newspaper on August 16,1966, it was Vivian that died.

Little America lived only 42 days. Little America died at 4:00 PM on Saturday, August 13, 1966. Original reports were Little America died from Aspergillosis (lung fungus disease). On Tuesday, August 16, 1966 Little America's cause of death was determined to be intestinal fluids which leaked into the body cavity through a perforation in the small intestine. This was due to swallowing a small sharp stone. This is according to a preliminary report on the cause of death by the Wisconsin Animal Diagnosis Laboratories in Madison.

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