New Orleans aquarium names newborn penguin after Pelicans’ Zion Williamson

In a rare bit of adorable news, the Audubon Aquarium of the Americas in New Orleans made a non-coronavirus-related announcement that will surely put a smile on every animal and basketball lover’s face. The aquarium said Tuesday that it named its newborn penguin chick Zion, after the Pelicans’ rookie phenom.

The aquarium posted photos of the small animal on its Instagram page, and it’s truly difficult to overstate just how adorable this creature is.

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Egg-citing news! An absolutely adorable African penguin chick named Zion hatched at Audubon Aquarium of the Americas on February 17, 2020, after a 39-day incubation period. 🐧 We chose the name Zion in honor of @pelicansnba rookie @ZionWilliamson. In this time of uncertainty, Zion embraced the New Orleans community with a truly remarkable act of generosity after NBA season halted. Zion is the offspring of penguin pair Hubig (mother) and Ocio (father). After spending approximately 11 days being raised with its parents, as sometimes happens, it needed to be removed and taken under human care. This is a very time-consuming process for animal care staff and is a testament to their dedication, especially right now since we are closed, and only essential staff are on site taking such great care of the animals. The African penguins at the Aquarium serve as ambassadors, teaching guests about the plight of this species in the wild due to human-wildlife conflict. We are proud to be able to contribute to the African Penguin @zoos_aquariums Species Survival Plan, and we hope to continue our breeding success year after year. #SavingSpecies #ClosedButStillCaring

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This decision wasn’t just made because Williamson is the biggest sports star in town not named Drew Brees. Part of the reason behind making the 19-year-old Pelicans forward the penguin’s namesake is because of his generosity during this turbulent time that the coronavirus pandemic has caused. On March 13, the rookie announced that he was going to pay for 30 days worth of salary to the workers at Smoothie King Arena, who would be without jobs while the league was suspended because of the respiratory virus.

“[T]his is a small way for me to express my support and appreciation for these wonderful people who have been so great to me and my teammates,” Williamson said on Instagram about his decision.

The penguin is just the latest animal to be named after a Louisiana sports superstar in recent months. Before this, the Baton Rouge Zoo named a new giraffe Burreaux after Heisman-winning LSU quarterback, and national champion, Joe Burrow.

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