British zookeepers are feeding an abandoned macaroni penguin chick with a “penguin puppet” crafted from a black rubber industrial glove, yellow strands and red eyes. A photo of the “penguin” and of the chick is here on the Guardian‘s site.
The chick was not incubated because one of its parents became ill; it takes two adults to watch over an egg. Keepers at a zoo in Devon in the UK have been feeding the chick with the penguin puppet so it does not become used to humans; they are also playing recordings of sounds made by a group of macaroni penguins. The keepers use a syringe to feed the chick a “pink fish milk shake” of filleted herring, krill, vitamins and water every three hours, between 8:30am and 8:30pm.
The penguin who took ill has recovered.
Says senior keeper Lois Rowell:
“We don’t mind the chick becoming familiar with us so long as it knows it’s a macaroni penguin and recognises what one looks like, hence the glove.”
The macaroni penguin head puppet does call to mind reports last year about Chinese scientists dressing in panda suits so the panda cubs they are taking care of have as little human contact as possible (or, only have contact with humans dressed in panda suits), before being released into the wild.
Yes, I guess that idea wouldn’t have worked with the macaroni penguins as they are a bit smaller than pandas, and the average human adult.
This video shows a just-hatched macaroni penguin with its parent in Devon.
Photo by Ross Elliott.