Friday, February 6, 2015

Elderly Phillip Island penguin 'Pauley' recovering well after having life-saving surgery

One of Phillip Island's oldest little penguins is recovering well from life-saving surgery after it was found underweight and distressed on a beach at Portsea. Fairy penguins on average live to be around seven years of age, but Pauley the fairy penguin has defied the odds to make the ripe old age of about 21.

Michelle Thomas from the Animalia shelter at Frankston said it was unusual for a penguin of his type to have survived so long in the wild. "He must just be a very, very smart penguin because he should by all means have been in the stomach of a shark or a seal by this time," she told ABC Gippsland. "It's quite remarkable to see a penguin get to that age."

Ms Thomas said she operated on the bird's damaged beak on Tuesday. "He was looking quite normal when he first came in and as soon as I opened his beak to give him his fluids, I realised what the problem was," she said. "That's when we discovered he had a massive great break in the beak."

Before the operation, the break was stopping him from fishing, Ms Thomas said. "He was in not too bad condition, the problem was that he hadn't been able to fish sufficiently with the beak the way he was and he had been losing weight," she said. "He came in at about 754 grams, and he should've been around about a kilogram. So he didn't have enough energy to be able to catch the fish, or to be able to swim fast enough to catch them."

Since the operation, Pauley has been quickly regaining his appetite.
He'll remember exactly what he's got to do when he gets out there and he'll be more than happy to see the back of us I'm sure.
Michelle Thomas, Animalia

"As soon as I got him back to the shelter he didn't want to have a bar of me, because I was the evil person that put him through the surgery," Ms Thomas said. "But my husband, who is the one who you can see his hand feeding him in the video, they have built quite a bond up together. Jon was able to give him two fish and some pain killers, then he had another four fish two hours after that, then last night he had another six fish. He's doing pretty well, we're pretty happy with that."

She said Pauley responded well to the operation and would be able to feed more effectively when he was returned to the wild. "All we need to do is make sure that he is waterproof and that he's swimming again," Ms Thomas said. "But because he's 21 years old, a couple of months in care for a bird like that is no big deal. He'll remember exactly what he's got to do when he gets out there and he'll be more than happy to see the back of us I'm sure."


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