Saturday, August 8, 2009

Padding up to take a strike from penguins



Sea Life centre marine expert Lauren Marshall is getting padded up ready to take strike...and not because she's got caught up in all the excitement over the Ashes series!

The 23-year-old aquarist is donning cricket pads as protection against painful pecks from the resident penguins. "There have been occasions in the last few weeks when I would almost sooner have been going in to face an over from Brett Lee," said Lauren. She and other displays staff have suffered a series of painful pecks to the shins as newly ensconced penguins Arnold, Lola, Ringo and Boomer, fail to contain their eagerness at feeding times.

"We have to deliver the food by hand to make sure each penguin gets its fair share, but when you hand food to one of them the other three tend to attack your shins wanting more," said Lauren. "We've had a torrid time of it, but then a TV preview of the cricket prompted the idea of using cricket pads for protection, and they work a treat," she added.

The pads have even been painted to resemble other penguins, but that doesn't seem to have fooled the real birds. Now the four of them...captive bred Humboldt penguins....are able to peck away as much as they like without inflicting injury. We still have to take care not to let any of them sneak round behind us and attack our calves, but they seem to prefer the challenge of the pads anyway," said Lauren.

The four Humboldts arrived in May and have become instant favourites in their luxurious purpose-built enclosure with deep dive pool, large outdoor paddock and nest boxes. They will be joined by four more later in the summer, once the moulting season has finished and their new companions are able to travel from another breeding colony at Scarborough.


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