African Penguin Chicks!
My second day at SANCCOB was just as action packed as the first. The center’s holding and rehab areas are divided up into various pens. There are two large pools, one for their resident population and one for the recovering birds. Each morning teams are assigned to a pen and responsible for its care. Today I was asked to help with PEN 2. Oh boy, here we go…
Before I could begin though, I had to put on the proper gear: oilers (foul weather overalls), neoprene forearm protectors, and a protective glove (I added a ball cap to the ensemble, I’ve bad luck with walking into low clearance structures). This was a new experience for me since I’ve spent the last nine years wearing a coldwater wetsuit while caring for the Aquarium’s penguins. As the day unfolded, I understood why each accessory was important. The oilers keep you from being saturated with penguin guano and, for the most part, dry. The protective sleeves and glove make sure that you do not receive any damaging bites from the birds while working with them. Red badges of courage make for great stories, but when working with these animals you must always be safe.
SANCCOB has always taken in abandoned penguin chicks. However, the number of these cases has grown considerably in the past five years. As a result, SANCCOB started the Chick Bolstering Project. During the 2010-2011 season, about 500 African penguin chicks passed through its gates. At the moment, the facility has more than 50 African penguin chicks. Many of these birds were found underweight, ill, and exhausted. Just by glancing around the various pens, I would guess that the majority the chicks are only two to three months old.
PEN 2 was where the older and healthier birds were kept. My team had to make sure that all of the dirty materials were changed out. We had to prep a certain amount of sardines for the each of the feedings. Many of these birds are still going through medical treatments so we needed to make sure that each got their proper meds, electrolyte fluids, and fish formulas at their scheduled times. Again, I found myself hustling from place to place. Before I knew it, it was 6 p.m. and the day was over. It was a lot fun! Definitely going to be sore tomorrow.
Even the giant Lego man downtown thought it was a good day!