Lonely little Pingu — a baby African penguin — was torn from its family when a gluttonous sibling constantly scoffed all its food. The fluffy feathered critter began to lose weight and appeared weak, but has now found solace in its surrogate sibling — a soft, plush, look-a-like stuffed toy.
Zoo keepers were forced to remove Pingu from its enclosure, but the 3-week old critter was in dire need of company. They bought him a stuffed toy for companionship, which the tiny penguin now cuddles up to all day. He also has a stuffed puffin for a new friend.
The little chick — whose sex has yet to be determined — was born with its sibling at the Living Coasts zoo in Torquay, Devon.
“At first it seemed everything was going well but then we noticed one sibling was growing more quickly than the other.” said senior head keeper Tony Durkin.
“You do get size differences in the wild but it only becomes a problem if the difference gets too great.”
“We prefer not to interfere, as it’s better for parent birds to rear their young naturally. But as the size difference increased, so did the problem.”
“The smaller chick was getting some food, just not enough. When it fell in the pool we decided to give it a helping hand.”
“The cuddly penguin toy is something for the chick to cozy up to and be comforted by — a surrogate family for the time being.”
Little Pingu is currently living in a snug den made from foam matting and towels with a shelter to imitate a normal burrow.
The chick was hand-reared and fed warm, liquidized fish from a syringe for the first 2 or 3 days before being gradually weaned onto chunks of sprat — a small fish of the herring family. Pingu now takes small whole sprats and is being fed 6 times a day by a team of 5 foster mothers.
“The chick is quiet but quite inquisitive.” Lois Rowell added. “It enjoys a shallow warm bath and being preened by us when its feathers need a clean up.”
Pingu will return to the colony when it’s strong enough to compete with the other insatiable siblings for food.
About African Penguins
African penguin chicks are about the same size as chicks of a domestic chicken, but grow to full size quite quickly in about 8 weeks. Shortly after that point they lose their downy feathers and grow their juvenile plumage, which they keep until they’re about 1 1/2 years old.
African Penguins grow to 26 to 27.5 inches (68 to 70 centimeters) tall and weigh between 4.4 and 11 pounds (2 to 5 kilos).
They have a black stripe and black spots on the chest, the pattern of spots being unique for every penguin, just like human fingerprints. They have pink glands above their eyes — the hotter the penguin gets, the more blood is sent to these glands to be cooled by the surrounding air, thus making the glands more pink.
Males are larger than the females and have larger beaks. Their distinctive black and white coloring is a vital form of camouflage — white for underwater predators looking upwards and black for predators looking down onto the dark water.
The African Penguin is also known as the Jackass penguin because of their shrill mating call.
Also known as the Black-footed Penguin, they’re found on the south-western coast of Africa, living in colonies on 24 islands between Namibia and Algoa Bay, near Port Elizabeth, South Africa, with the largest colony on Dyer Island, near Kleinbaai.
Two colonies were established by penguins in the 1980′s on the mainland near Cape Town at Boulders Beach near Simon’s Town and Stony Point in Betty’s Bay. Mainland colonies probably only became possible in recent times due to the reduction of predator numbers, although the Betty’s Bay colony has been attacked by leopards. The only other mainland colony is in Namibia, but it’s not known when this was established.Tags:African penguin animal animals bird birds chick penguin penguins science