A Penguins First Swim Towards Freedom
The grebes were the first to be washed and rehabilitated in pools following days of intensive care, therefore they were the first to be released. The release happened sooner than we thought it would, however 14 of the birds were showing promising signs that it was time to go. Also, many of the adults were becoming territorial and aggressive towards the juveniles. My colleague Jay was on “birdiesitting” duty for about 4 days as the aggression persisted. He, along with Chema and Yeray (IFAW colleagues from Latin America) immediately began pre-release exams to ensure that the grebes could physically handle returning to the wild.
The release took place along the shore of Rada Tilly, Punta del Marques which is just south of the oil spill site and of our Center. All 14 of the birds were released at the same time from two large cages and out of all 14 there was only one that got a bit confused and headed in the wrong direction, back towards the beach! He eventually reoriented and safely headed in the direction of the others.
At the center we still have 34 Great grebes that continue to gain their strength but are still being monitored, fed and treated. We aim to release another group tomorrow if those pre-release exams come through clear.
Now that all birds but the penguins have been washed, the real mayhem has begun. (It only looks like chaos, but it’s really not!) It’s very exciting that so many of the penguins will very soon be able to recondition themselves in pools. Our wash room is set up to wash 2-3 penguins at a time, and rinse 2-3 penguins at a time. Prior to washing however, each individual must go through intake which is where their photo is logged and an oiled feather sample is taken. It is extremely important to obtain data on these animals for the government to begin their investigation into the “mystery spill”. Also, the Penguin Network in Latin America collects the same information for their own database.
Outdoor enclosures are set up so that washed penguin groups can shift from pool to sand and then to pool again and back to sand. I just went outside to check on the penguins that were placed outside this morning and Rodolfo was coo-ing to them while trying to get them to shift enclosures. Rodolfo is shown in the attached photo; he’s our enclosure expert among many other things!
It’s just after lunch now and I’m in charge of penguin feather intake today, so I have to rush off so that the wash team can continue to make progress. Our goal for today is to have 30 penguins washed, the average has been 20 a day.