Hilton Welcomes Newborn Penguin

Mana finds his fit within the hotel’s menagerie

By: Dawna Robertson

Hawaii may be the last place one would expect to find penguins. But at Hilton Hawaiian Village Beach Resort & Spa on Waikiki Beach, a colony of African Blackfoot Penguins does more than thrive amid the palm trees and tourists. At this Village in the middle of the Pacific, they’re also raising a family.

Mana, a male African blackfoot penguin, was hatched at the Village on Jan. 19. The offspring of Remy and Oreo, he is the fourth penguin born at the Village since penguins joined the resort’s family in 1987. The eight-bird colony is one of the most surprising and enjoyable attractions guests find at the 22-acre Waikiki resort.

Weighing just 60 grams at birth, Mana is now nearing 1.3 kilograms thanks to a steady diet of small fish hand-fed by the resort’s highly trained wildlife staff. He’ll reach his full size of approximately three kilograms in April. At the same time, his juvenile coat of fur-like gray and white feathers will replace the gray down that insulates him now.

Since Mana’s mother showed little maternal interest, the wildlife staff removed Mana from the colony and have been raising him in the resort’s wildlife care facility. So naturally, he’s now accustomed to human interaction.

Mana scuttles about the facility while the Village’s six-person wildlife staff tends to the needs of the more than 70 exotic birds that also reside at the Village. Mana has clearly bonded, in particular, with wildlife assistant Wendy Kuhns-Higashino, following her around the facility and watching her every movement. In fact, Mana will chirp for Wendy’s attention even when another wildlife staffer is holding or tending to him.

“Under Mana’s circumstances, intervention was necessary,” said Kuhns-Higashino. “Although his responsiveness to me is cute, we encourage the behaviors that will help him adapt to life in the penguin colony.”

Mana’s name means “Spirit” in the Hawaiian language, an apt moniker given the unusual parental circumstances the chick has had to overcome.

“Mana’s birth was very special. This little baby has shown tremendous spirit in fighting the early battle for survival,” said the resort’s general manager, Noel Trainor. “We wanted a name befitting that, and ‘Mana’ is a strong name for a strong little penguin.”

After Mana grows his juvenile coat, the wildlife staff will begin to reintroduce the young male to his winged family. He’ll have supervised visits to the colony’s outdoor enclosure, each visit longer than the previous, until it is clear the colony has accepted him.

Due to the staff s experience, the Hilton Hawaiian Village has become one of just two non-zoo facilities in the United States authorized to breed and raise African blackfoot penguins. Hilton Hawaiian Village is also licensed as a Wild Bird Rehabilitation Facility by the State of Hawaii’s Department of Land and Natural Resources and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Hilton Hawaiian Village Resort & Spa features a beachfront lagoon, waterfalls, five swimming pools, gardens, art collection, exotic wildlife, Friday night Jubilee fireworks display, over 20 restaurants and lounges, over 90 shops, the full-service Mandara Spa and Holistica Hawaii Preventive Medicine Center.