Rubber glove fools penguin chick
Published 03/06/2011 | 13:19
Zoo keepers are fooling an abandoned penguin chick into thinking a black industrial glove is its parent.
Keepers at Living Coasts in Torquay, Devon, are standing in as the tiny chick's parents after it was abandoned before it had even hatched.
In order to hand-rear the chick, keepers are wearing a home-made penguin glove puppet during its feeds to stop it from becoming used to humans.
The puppet is made from a black rubber industrial glove decorated with red eyes and yellow plumes to mimic an adult macaroni penguin.
Exhibit manager Clare Rugg said: "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 egg was not incubated by its parents after one of them became ill. It usually takes two birds to look after an egg so it was abandoned. 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 chick is fed every three hours between 8.30am and 8.30pm on a blended mixture of filleted herring, krill, vitamins and water which is warmed and fed to the chick using a syringe.
"It looks and smells like a pink fish milk shake," said 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."
Staff are also playing the chick a recording of the sounds of the macaroni penguin group.