In an accute case of cute overload, Milford, Chalky, and Mr. Munro — the only Fiordland penguins in captivity — take their business to the trails as they enchant visitors at Sydney’s Taronga Zoo while they stroll through the Zoo grounds as part of their daily exercise routine.
Mr. Munro made news headlines last year after being nursed back to health at Taronga Zoo following a heroic 1,470 mile (2, 000 kilometer) swim across the sub-Antarctic waters from New Zealand. Along with his female companions, Chalky and Milford, the frisky penguin trio has begun walking from Taronga’s penguin exhibit to explore their surroundings.
Marine Mammals Keeper, Elly Neumann said, “The Penguins really enjoy their walk, although it is more of a ‘nanna’ stroll as they take in the sights and sounds around the Zoo. It is wonderful to watch the penguins investigate different areas and helps develop the relationship we have with these remarkable animals.”
“When visitors meet them during their walk it really raises their understanding of just how unique the species are and gives us a chance to educate people about the threats facing Fiordlands and just how endangered these extraordinary animals are.”
Mr. Munro, Chalky and Milford are the only Fiordland Crested Penguins to be cared for by a Zoo anywhere in the world. Fiordlands are listed as a ‘vulnerable’ species, threatened by habitat destruction and introduced predators. They’re found strictly in the wet coastal rainforests of New Zealand’s Fiordland and Stewart Islands.
Until Mr. Munro was brought to the Taronga Zoo in April 2007, Milford and Chalky had been without male companionship for more than a decade. The Zoo hopes he will mate with one of the females and breed a new generation of Fiordland Crested Penguins to provide an opportunity to study the breeding and brooding behavior and habits of these elusive penguins.
“Milford has definitely taken a shine to Mr. Munro and bosses Chalky around whenever she gets close to him, but being a typical boy, Munro is definitely a loveable rogue and is happy to receive attention from both of his female companions.” said Elly.
“We are hoping that Munro and the girls will breed naturally but as they are the only three in zoo populations and there are less than 1,000 breeding pairs in the wild we cannot be complacent. We must explore all opportunities available and will start artificial insemination shortly, so their new exercise routine will ensure the penguins are of optimum health and fitness.”
Artificial insemination has been used successfully in many species such as Little Penguins, making it possible for Zoos to create ‘insurance populations’ in case of a complete collapse in the wild. In many cases, zoo breeding programs are the only thing that stands between a species survival and extinction.
Mr. Munro — named after Munro Beach in New Zealand where remnant populations of Fiordland Penguins are found — was brought to Taronga Zoo in November 2006 after he washed up on shore near Norah Heads suffering from malnutrition after his epic journey across the sub-Antarctic waters.
Being one of the most endangered penguin species in the world, strict quarantine regulations for risks of being a carrier of unknown disease meant the penguin couldn’t be returned to the wild, thus making Taronga his new home.
He’s now a very lively penguin after being rehabilitated at the Zoo’s Wildlife Clinic where he more than doubled his weight since arrival and loves nothing more than a tasty treat of pilchards.
Being a wild bird, it’s difficult to know Mr. Munro’s actual age, but he’s estimated to be around 2 years old.
Chalky and Milford
The 2 females arrived at Taronga Zoo one year apart after being washed ashore, suffering exhaustion and illness. Milford arrived in 1994.
Chalky was named after Chalky Inlet and Milford after Milford Sound, located in New Zealand’s South Island.
Having been together for more than a decade the females — about 22 inches (55 centimeters) tall — share a very strong bond. They’ve continued to lay eggs despite not having a male to fertilize them, and shared the task of incubating them, taking turns to swim, feed and sit on the egg. At the change of shift they call and display to each other.
They rule the roost at Taronga’s Penguin Beach and enjoy letting the Little Penguins, with which they share the exhibit, know who’s boss. They’re much more interested in people and like to greet their keepers when they enter the exhibit.
Chalky can be identified by her spottier feet, has fewer feathers on her chest region and a small segment missing out of her left flipper due to an old injury. She’s also more inquisitive and follows the keepers around the enclosure.
Milford on the other hand is more tactile, has longer, spikier crests than Chalky and enjoys a good scratch from her keepers.
Both females are very intelligent and have taken part in cognitive research in which they were trained to differentiate between vertical and horizontal objects. They become highly excited at feeding time and have been taught to stand on a specific spot — Chalky on a yellow circle and Milford on a red square.
Taronga and Western Plains Zoos care for 4,000 animals from over 350 species, and conservation education to over 100,000 school students annually. The Zoos also conduct a large range of conservation research, breeding and in situ projects from Antarctica to Mongolia and throughout Australia and Asia, while providing wildlife health services to thousands of native animals annually.
The three Fiordland Penguins are living at Taronga’s Penguin Beach, but will relocate to a brand new exhibit within the new Great Southern Oceans complex just below their current home.
Taronga Zoo is asking for support for Mr. Munro and the girls by donating to the Taronga Foundation’s Great Southern Oceans Appeal, a major project providing a custom-designed new home for the Fiordland family, Little Penguins and many seal species. Find out more or make a donation at Great Southern Oceans Appeal.
Mr. Monro meets Chalky and Milford
Source: Taronga ZooTags:animal animals extinct Fiordland Penguins penguin penguins save species Taronga Zoo vulnerable