Posts Tagged ‘Living Coasts’

A Macaroni Goes African

June 16, 2014

The Penguin Post has learned that a penguin at the Living Coasts in South Devon, U.K. is turning the natural order of things a little inside out. The peculiar penguin in question is a Macaroni penguin named Juan who has chosen to nest in a way usually reserved for African penguins – a species that Juan wouldn’t be likely to meet in the wild.

Macaroni Penguin

Macaroni Penguin

But, first-time parents 17-year-old Juan and his partner, 7-year-old Pebbles, have rejected the company of the other macaroni penguins on their rocky beach, preferring instead to breed down a hole, alongside scores of African penguins.

African Penguin

African Penguin

Living Coasts is home to around 80 macaroni and African penguins. African penguins nest in burrows dug into sand, while macaroni penguins usually prefer to lay their eggs out in the open, on piles of pebbles. So why has Juan gone for a burrow? Keeper Cara Burton said, “Last year Juan had a squabble over a nest site with another male, so left the macaroni penguin breeding area. He spent a lot of time on the African penguin beach during the summer.  “When winter arrived he moved into a burrow, probably for shelter, and has stayed put ever since. Pebbles showed interest in him last year but nothing happened. This year she tried to tempt him back to macaroni beach a few times but had no luck – so she joined him!”  Macaroni penguins are sub-Antarctic birds; in the wild they nest in large colonies along the rocky coasts of places like Chile and the Falkland Islands. African penguins are endemic to southern Africa. “This is unusual behavior – it’s the first time it has ever happened at Living Coasts. However, I think they stand a good chance of breeding successfully. Macaroni penguins always kick the first egg out of the nest and then lay a second – they have done this. Everything seems to be going smoothly,” said Burton.
“They don’t have the shelter that the macaroni beach has, so it might get a bit warm for them – we will encourage the birds to bring the chick out and provide shelter and their own water spray.”

African Penguin on our Beach Towel

African Penguin on our Beach Towel

Penguin Plush Helps Raise Penguin Chicks

February 17, 2012

The Penguin Post has learned that a pair of baby penguins rejected by their mothers are being hand-reared by keepers – using soft toys and bird noises to stop them being lonely. The fluffy duo cuddle up to their surrogate pals while listening to penguin noises piped into their pen at Living Coasts in Torquay, U.K. One of the African penguin chicks was half the size of its siblings when it was born in December, while the other was abandoned by its mother before it hatched last month. In the wild, groups of young penguins are often kept together for warmth and safety in a crèche. Staff at the park bought a couple of $5.00 toys from the gift shop to act as surrogate siblings and replicate the effect. Workers also started playing penguin noises to the chicks because it will help them to slowly reintegrate with their colony. Spokesman Stuart Wright said: “Putting the penguin cuddly toys in there gives them something to react with and nestle up against. In the burrows of the nest they would be closed in, the parents sit on them to keep them warm and it just adds that extra factor to cuddle up to under the heat lamp.“They are being taken out for brief periods each day to interact with the birds out there.” The younger chick is being fed liquidised herring and sprat every three hours, while the older one has now advanced to whole sprats.

Zoo Fits Penguins With Radios

July 21, 2011

The Penguin Post has learned that a conservation project supported by a Devon Zoo in Torquay, England is fitting satellite transmitters to wild African penguins in an attempt to learn more about the species. The first juvenile African penguin ever to be fitted with a satellite transmitter was released into the wild off the coast of South Africa at the end of June. The bird, named Lucy, was hand-reared by SANCCOB (the Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds), an organisation supported by Living Coasts Aquarium. Torquay’s coastal zoo is part of Project Penguin, a conservation and research program set up by Bristol Zoo Gardens in collaboration with SANCCOB, the University of Cape Town’s Animal Demography Unit, the South African government, Cape Nature and other local and international partners. The release is one of five planned over the coming months as part of the Chick Bolstering Project, designed to investigate the behaviour of juvenile birds and learn about the pressures they face in early life. The goal is to use chicks abandoned by their parents and hand-reared to create new colonies close to areas of high prey abundance.  Living Coasts Director Elaine Hayes said: “One of the problems African penguins face in the wild is the movement of fish stocks away from the waters in which they have previously been found. We think this is being caused by climate change. The project to establish new colonies could help save the species.” The transmitter is expected to relay the bird’s position for about six months. The device was attached to feathers on the bird’s back. Dr. Richard Sherley, who is heading the research component of the project, said: “The device will simply drop off once the glue wears off, or when the bird moults at around 18 months. Hopefully, by that time we will have learnt some vital lessons about what these young birds do at sea.” SANCCOB veterinarian Dr. Nola Parsons, who coordinates the project and oversees chick rearing at SANCCOB, said: “This bird has the potential to give us so much valuable information about the movements of African penguin fledglings. This work is essential in improving the way in which we manage this species”. By the end of her first night at sea, Lucy was already about 30 miles offshore, west of Robben Island in Table Bay. She has since been more than 50 miles out to sea. As well as supporting Project Penguin, Living Coasts donates sums raised by on-site activities to SANCCOB. The coastal zoo is also part of the European Stud Book for African penguins, which means that all breeding is coordinated with collections across Europe. African penguin colonies are declining at an alarming rate, mainly due to a lack of food caused by over-fishing and by the movement of fish stocks away from the colonies – the latter quite possibly as a result of global climate change.

Penguins Being Fed In Torquay

Sadly Puppet Fed Penguin Dies

June 16, 2011

The Penguin Post is sad to report that the macaroni penguin was fed by keepers using a decorated black rubber glove after its egg was abandoned when one of its parents fell ill. Living Coasts said that the bird, which was just over two-weeks old, had been eating less and died on Monday. Staff said it was a sad event and that a post-mortem examination would be carried out. The chick hatched on 25 May and was fed using the hand-made puppet, decorated with red eyes and yellow plumes. The puppet was used to prevent it from becoming too used to humans. It was also played recordings of other macaroni penguins. Exhibit manager Clare Rugg said: “Keepers reported that the youngster ate less than usual on Sunday and had lost a bit of weight. “On Monday morning, it was off its food, the vet was called, it was given rehydration fluid and critical care. But it sadly died later in the day.” Living Coasts’ director, Elaine Hayes, said: “Things had been going well. We even had a short-list of names and were going to ask the public to vote for their favorite. “Working with animals has its ups and downs, and this is definitely a down.”