Aquarium names penguin chick after Zion Williamson

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NEW ORLEANS -- There's a new Zion in town.

The Audubon Aquarium of the Americas in New Orleans announced Tuesday that its new penguin chick has been named Zion, after New Orleans Pelicans rookie sensation Zion Williamson.

Williamson received acclaim in the New Orleans area in the days following the suspension of the NBA season by announcing he would cover the salaries of the Smoothie King Center workers for 30 days. Shortly after Williamson said he'd step up, Pelicans and Saints owner Gayle Benson committed $1 million to establish a COVID-19 fund while also pledging to help workers separate of that.

The Aquarium said it chose the name to honor Williamson, adding in an Instagram post that "Zion embraced the New Orleans community with a truly remarkable act of generosity."

View this post on Instagram

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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Zion the penguin was born Feb. 17, while the Pelicans were off for the All-Star break.

It's the second animal named after a local sports star in the past two months. In February, the Baton Rouge Zoo named its new giraffe Burreaux after LSU Heisman-winning quarterback Joe Burrow.