(REUTERS) - A Dalmatian pelican born last month is thriving under human care at the San Diego Zoo. The young bird weighs in at around 5.4kg, and is beginning to grow white features over its downy fluff.
"He started off a little bit slow and didn't have really good weight gains for the first ten days or couple of weeks, but since then, he's really picked up, he's doing very well, we have to monitor how much he eats so that he won't grow too quickly," says senior bird keeper Beau Parks.
The youngster is one of two pelican chicks being hand-reared at the zoo. Because aggression and competition among siblings has been documented in the wild, the chicks are being raised separately to be able to ensure their well-being. Animal care staff at the zoo's off-exhibit Avian Propagation Centre will hand-raise the birds for approximately 50 to 60 days, until they are strong enough to return to their flock at the zoo's Safari Park.
The Dalmatian pelicans are part of the first North American breeding program for the vulnerable species. Since the breeding program was started in 2006, 34 chicks have been hatched.