20 February 2011

Portly penguins with "guilty conscience" avoid the scales

Humboldt penguins at the National
Seal Sanctuary.
Photo by MortimerCat2010.
Some rights reserved.
UK - I certainly avoid getting on the scales post-Christmas and New Year (especially this year after a week of American-style breakfasts in New York), and it seems the podgy Humboldt penguins at the National Seal Sanctuary in Gweek, Cornwall, feel the same way.

Since the six penguins arrived at the sanctuary last April they have been piling on the pounds, so the penguin team would like to record their weights and use this information to control their food intake. But even though the scales are camouflaged under the sandy floor of the birds' enclosure, it is proving difficult to trick the clever birds to get onto them.

Jenna Blacow, penguin expert at the sanctuary, said, "Penguins are sensitive birds and very skittish, so it would be far too stressful for them for us to chase them about and catch them by hand in order to weigh them."

"We have trained the seals to come out of the pool and sit on specially designed scales, and we are hoping we will be able to train our penguins to do the same, but so far it seems they have a guilty conscience about getting on the scales!"

"The penguins are smarter than we gave them credit for. They know we have hidden the scales and are stretching out their necks over them to grab the fish from our hands."

The penguin team will persevere, however, said Ms Blacow.

"Wild creatures are often wary when they are faced with something new, so if we keep trying hopefully we will succeed in getting them on the scales when they realise there is nothing to be afraid of."

In the meantime, the penguins will be hand fed and monitored carefully, and kept active with enrichment activities such as "penguin football".

Podgy penguins on New Year diet, 8 February 2011, Gweek Seal Sanctuary

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