Thursday, November 17, 2011

Lots of penguin chicks

Another day at SANCCOB, another area of focus. Paul and I crossed paths for the first time today and were both scheduled to work with the younger penguin chicks. These are the birds that are well enough to leave the intensive care unit but aren’t ready to hang with the big boys yet. Some of them are quite small, weighing less that 4 pounds each! (For an idea about what it takes to weigh a chick, check out this post about our own penguin chicks at the Aquarium!)
Our charges for the day

Within this pen there are a couple of different age chicks, determined by where they are in the molting process. Molting (or losing their feathers and growing in new ones) is important to every penguin. For the chicks, however, it means a new stage in life. Chicks have a layer of downy feathers that they need to outgrow before they hit the water full time. Once the birds molt from their downy feathers into their waterproof ones, they can then head to sea for the first time. At SANCCOB, they refer to these birds as “blues”, as their new waterproof feathers have a dark navy hue to them.

Chick with downy feathers


In addition to feeding and cleaning their pens, Paul and I worked with another volunteer to make sure all of the chicks and blues got their medication. Many of them are on additional meds to make sure they make a recovery. A couple even get nebulizer treatments, where the medication is made into a fine mist so the chicks can breathe it in. So it was a pretty intense day of making sure all the birds got the treatments they needed. In total, there was 2 feeding times, 2 formula times, 2 swim times, 3 medication and additional fluid times and 3 nebulizer treatments for those that needed it. Add  to it this updating charts, making sure proper liquids were given, cleaning and making things were set for tomorrow and you have one very full day!

I see you...

As if things weren’t hectic enough, 21 new chicks from a breeding area near Betty’s Bay came in to SANCCOB mid-afternoon. The new arrivals, as well as our charges for today, are part of the Chick Bolstering Project that both Paul and I are so excited to work with. The project works to make sure that abandoned chicks are collected from breeding areas, brought to SANCCOB to be raised until the penguins can be on their own and then released. It hit me today watching the new arrivals be processed that I am a part of that project. I’m doing something that can help this endangered species, a species that needs all the help they can get. Fortunately, SANCCOB is there to help. And now I am too…needless to say that left me with a smile for today. And how could you not love that face!

New chick arrival at SANCCOB today!
Learn more about the Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds, or SANCCOB and their Chick Bolstering Project

Follow the adventures of Jo's co-worker, Paul! Aquarium penguin biologist Paul Leonard is also in South Africa to study and care for African penguins in the Southern Hemisphere! Read about his experience on the Penguin Blog.

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