Thursday, October 30, 2008

Abandoned Chick Now Thriving

SHE'S come a long way for a chick whose parents abandoned her and left her to starve.

She's penguin F0054, and has surprised scientists by swimming an astonishing 1 250km from Dyer Island, off Gansbaai, around Cape Point and north to Mercury Island near Lüderitz in Namibia.

Deon Geldenhuys, CapeNature conservation manager on Dyer Island, said he knew penguins swam far afield when they were youngsters. But he had been surprised when Namibian conservation authorities contacted him to say they had seen a penguin wearing a flipper band with the number F0054.

"That's quite a distance for a little bird to swim," he said.

F0054 was born to parents on Dyer Island fairly late in the season and was not old enough to fend for herself when her parents began moulting.

When penguins moult, they lose the "wet-suit" effect their feathers give them and so don't go to sea to feed until their new feathers have grown. If they have a chick on the nest when the moult begins, the chick goes without food.

"If we'd left her on the nest, she definitely would have starved," Geldenhuys said.

"If the African penguin population were big and healthy we would not worry, but it's not. Numbers are dropping, so we do everything we can to help boost their numbers."

F0054 was collected in November last year, with other abandoned chicks, and taken to the South African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds (Sanccob) in Table View.

She weighed 1,1kg. After Sanccob fattened her up, she was released at Dyer Island a month later, weighing 2,4kg.

"According to the Namibian guys, the penguin looked fine and healthy."

Story courtesy of

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