Friday, June 13, 2014

Living Coasts penguin goes native with African neighbors

By Herald Express  |  Posted: June 13, 2014
By Aidan Phillips
Penguins at Living Coasts zoo
Penguins at Living Coasts zoo. Photo: Living Coasts

A sub-Antarctic penguin at Living Coasts has gone native after spending a summer hanging out with his African neighbours. Juan, a 17 year-old Macaroni penguin, has chosen to breed down a hole alongside his partner, seven year-old Pebbles.

This habit is associated with the enclosure’s African penguins who nest in burrows dug into sand, unlike his Macaroni counterparts who usually lay their eggs out in the open. Keeper Cara Burton said this unusual change of habit follows a lot of time spent on the enclosures African penguin beach last summer after Juan had a “squabble” with another male over a nest site. “When winter arrived he moved into a burrow, probably for shelter, and has stayed put ever since. Pebbles showed interest in him last year but nothing happened. This year she tried to tempt him back to macaroni beach a few times but had no luck – so she joined him. “This is unusual behaviour, it’s the first time it has ever happened at Living Coasts. However, I think they stand a good chance of breeding successfully. Macaroni penguins always kick the first egg out of the nest and then lay a second – they have done this. Everything seems to be going smoothly.”

A spokesperson for the zoo said this is the first time in 11 years of penguin breeding they have ever known a Macaroni penguin to take up residence on the African beach, and that apart from his change in breeding habits Juan has continued to act like the rest of his Macaroni kin. “These penguins would never meet in the wild. Juan is a bit of a rebel.” He said the incident was most likely a one-off occasion.

The coastal zoo in Torquay is home to around 80 penguins from the two species.

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