08 June 2011

Puppet parent for abandoned chick

UK - A macaroni penguin chick at Living Coasts in Torquay, Devon, who was abandoned by its parents before it hatched has a new parent - a glove puppet! By using the puppet to feed the chick, staff are hoping to stop it imprinting on humans.

The puppet is made from a black rubber industrial glove decorated with red eyes and yellow plumes to look like an adult macaroni penguin.

Exhibit manager Clare Rugg told the Press Association, "This way contact is kept to a minimum - yes, the chick will hear and see keepers, but it will also see the glove which has the shape and colour of an adult penguin."

The chick's parents abandoned the egg after one of them became ill, because it usually takes two birds to incubate an egg. The adult bird has since recovered.

Living Coasts director Elaine Hayes said, "We decided to hand rear because the egg was fertile but would not have survived and there are not many macaroni penguins in the UK."

The staff feed the chick using the puppet parent every three hours between 8.30am and 8.30pm by syringe. Its meals are a warm blended mixture of filleted herring, krill, vitamins and water, which senior keeper Lois Rowell said "looks and smells like a pink fish milk shake."

She added, "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."

Staff are also playing the chick recordings of macaroni penguin sounds so it will get used to the sounds of the birds it will, in due course, be living with.

Abandoned penguin chick thinks glove is its mother, 3 June 2011, The Telegraph
Penguin fooled into thinking a puppet is its parent, 3 June 2011, The Guardian
Penguin impressions help rear chick in Devon, 3 June 2011, BBC News

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