(BABY ANIMALS) There are some amazing tales of interspecies rearing. Cats who care for puppies, dogs who nurse ligers, and countless other animal kingdom combinations. But this may be the strangest. An abandoned Macaroni penguin chick has been convinced by caring keepers that a homemade hand-puppet is his parent. Read how and why these human guardians are playing Muppet with their avian charge. — Global Animal
Zoo keepers are fooling an abandoned penguin chick into thinking a black industrial glove is its parent.
Keepers at Living Coasts in Torquay, Devon, are hand rearing the tiny chick, which was abandoned before it had hatched, using a homemade penguin glove puppet during feeds to stop it becoming used to humans.
The puppet is made from a black rubber industrial glove decorated with red eyes and yellow plumes to mimic an adult macaroni penguin.
Exhibit manager Clare Rugg said: “This way contact is kept to a minimum. Yes, the chick will hear and see keepers, but it will also see the glove which has the shape and colour of an adult penguin.”
The chick was not incubated by its parents because one of them became ill. It usually takes two birds to look after an egg so it was abandoned. The adult bird has since recovered.
The director of Living Coasts, Elaine Hayes, said: “We decided to hand rear because the egg was fertile but would not have survived and there are not many macaroni penguins in the UK.”
The chick is fed with a syringe every three hours between 8.30am and 8.30pm on a blended mixture of filleted herring, krill, vitamins and water.
Lois Rowell, a senior keeper, said the food looked and smelled like a pink fish milk shake.”
“We don’t mind the chick becoming familiar with us so long as it knows it’s a macaroni penguin and recognises what one looks like, hence the glove,” she said.
Staff are also playing the chick a recording of the sounds made by a macaroni penguin group.