Penguin bubble bath on show
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A trio of bewildered penguins have been whisked from Napier to Palmerston North for a very public bubble bath.
The three little blue penguins were the only known casualties of last Friday's diesel spill in Napier Harbour.
A moored fishing boat partly sank on Friday evening, spilling about 1500 litres of its fuel tank's diesel into the sea.
Hawke's Bay wildlife rescuers picked up six penguins, of which three were determined to be in need of urgent attention as they were coated in a toxic diesel slick.
The birds were dispatched to Massey University's Palmerston North-based national Oiled Wildlife Response team for a scrubbing, to the delight of their young audience yesterday.
Massey wildlife technician Pauline Conayne had spent the past two school terms educating Tiritea School pupils about the Wildlife Centre's animal patients.
She and national wildlife response team co-ordinator Helen McConnell, who both spent time in Tauranga helping the animal casualties of the Rena oil spill at Astrolabe Reef, showed the kids the penguin-scrubbing process.
The audience were not allowed to touch lest the oils on their own hands compromised the birds' delicate feathers.
Tiritea year five pupil Jacob Farrelly, 9, said the children had spent two terms learning about how to clean oiled animals, but this was the first time they had seen it in action.
"We got turkey feathers that we put in golden syrup and Vegemite and we used [special detergent] Dawn to wash it out.
"It took quite a long time just to clean the feathers."
It took almost half an hour per bird to clean off the diesel that would poison their skin and strip their feathers of their waterproof qualities if it wasn't swiftly removed, Ms McConnell said.
The children were entranced as each well-tempered bird squirmed through the bubble bath, fought a little less against a dousing of warm water and eventually conceded defeat as its turn came for a feather-drying session under a giant blowdrying apparatus.
Jacob said the penguins weren't as happy about their rescue as he and his classmates had expected.
"We imagined they would be all calm and that, but we now know that they really, really hate it."
Last year the school raised $1000 towards the care of the wildlife centre's patients, an amount the children hoped to match this year.