SANCCOB Penguins: The Reality of Survival
Penguins enjoy a bath at SANCCOB prior to being released back into the wild.
I spent most of my time in ICU afterwards. We had a strange case of chicks losing their fluff and instead of becoming blues gradually they went bald. I had a pen of ‘baldies’ in ICU who couldn’t swim and looked like plucked chickens. They really were an ugly bunch, but gradually I got to know their individual personalities and understood each one’s idiosyncrasies. The baldies were with me for quite some time waiting to grow back feathers.
One day in the hot weather I was tired of looking at the dirty feet - no matter how clean the pen was they needed to swim, so I filled a large oval shaped Gannet bowl full of warm water and one by one I took them out for their first experience in water. By now they had no chick fluff and short feathers growing through. Most of them were frantic in the water for the first time, but afterwards the preening session was a pleasure to see and having clean feet and less guano on their feathers was definitely uplifting for them.
I think my saddest times were towards the end of my time at SANCCOB - Malaria had taken grip of the birds and many of them were sick. Their feet started to suffer with bumble foot and I was tired by now. The penguins were definitely stronger than the cute little chicks that had come in - they were now feisty blues with attitude. They were not in the mood for eating.
At my lowest point I had 7 birds come up to ICU on one day regurgitating fish from outside pens. I watched two start to die in front of me before the Vet intervened to euthanize them. I just felt terribly sad and sorry in my isolated little unit surrounded by all these sick and dying birds. I took a walk down to the release pen to remind myself that this is not the whole picture. That I am in ICU and seeing the worst cases and actually there are hundreds of birds in the centre who are thriving. It was great to see them swimming in the pens, healthy strong penguins.
Next day after a good sleep and feeling refreshed I saw things in a different light. We did a big release of 146 penguins and it was such a boost to get that many birds back to the wild. That is what the entire process is all about!