12 May 2020

Neighbourhood News – Penguin Patter 10 May 2020

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What’s our penguinologist found this week?

Hiltrun Ratz shares penguins secrets from behind the scenes.

A lot of penguins stayed home last week – 162 recorded plus three moulters. It’s possible that this is the peak and the numbers will decline again next week.

Two penguins caught in the predator trap

Penguin explorers

The penguins do lots of exploring and sometimes get stuck in places that they can’t get out of again… On Thursday, two penguins found themselves in the predator trap then on Friday a different penguin was patiently waiting to be freed from the exact same trap.

I check this trap every morning and released these penguins into neighbouring boxes so they could be on their way to go fishing the next day. The trap is a live-trap so the penguins were not hurt or damaged in any way – just a little discombobulated!

Other penguins have started to fight over mates and boxes. On Monday, a mature, established female was found in her box with a strange male. I thought this odd as I knew her mate was alive: they had recently moulted together. Unsurprisingly, he was there on Thursday looking angry and worse for wear. It must have been quite the fight though and it’s anyone’s guess what the other male looked like: he was gone. The female owner of the box was back and in charge.

Supplementary feeding and rehab

This week I have only been feeding the pre-moult adult and he is gaining weight.

Looking worse for wear: penguin with feather loss and scarring on left hip next to its flipper

When I first got him on 1 April, he only weighed 760g and lost some weight in the first five days. On Friday he weighed 1130g and had an excellent appetite but unfortunately showed no sign of moulting. It’s become apparent why he’s struggling to moult: distinct feather loss and scaring on his left hip next to the flipper. Old injuries often prevents penguins from entering their moult in a timely fashion with a good weight. Whilst the injury has healed, trauma may impact normal moulting processes and without rehabilitation the penguin dies. 

The small chick from B16 has finally died after many days of refusing or throwing up any food I managed to feed it. It had also developed cloudy eyes from an infection, and was very wobbly on its legs. There was nothing I could do for it. It’s now pushing up a cabbage tree.

Good news from Moeraki

On Saturday, two of the three chicks taken to the Moeraki rehab facility (Penguin Rescue) last week to break their habit of returning to Pilots Beach for food, were released weighing 900g and 1000g. They were placed in a little penguin box on the foreshore and left there. Penguin Rescue volunteers will check that they leave but will not feed them to prevent the penguins from developing a habit of expecting food from there. 

The third chick is still in the rehab facility. It was the lightest chick and needs to gain more weight before it can be released with a reasonable chance of survival.

Penguin box with a beach view.

One of the chicks released at Moeraki peaks out of its box