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|November 28 - Laurie Macha|
I went in at 7:30 today to help with the early formula feedings. After working in pen 10 yesterday, I was anxious to start my day. Yesterday was challenging with vomiting and lethargic chicks. We cut one of the formula feedings out on Saturday for two of the pens and limited them to one fish tale at the last fish feeding of the day. WOW! There is such a difference in all of the pens. The chicks took their first formula feeding remarkably.
At the 8am meeting with Marlei, I was supervisor of pen 10 again and I had a morning volunteer, Liz, who was absolutely wonderful, and an evening volunteer (Maresia) who I met 2 years ago at the Two Oceans Aquarium in Cape Town. It was so nice to see her again and catch up on what she's been doing. I had such great help all day long!
We had a few challenges during the day and had to move several chicks to ICU. I had one chick coughing in the morning and when I went to pick it up for a darrows tubing at 8:30, it vomited up its formula from 7:30. This chick was brought over to ICU to be treated for respiratory problems. We also had a chick that was extremely weak and really not thriving and doing well in pen 10A, so it was also transferred to ICU. I really got a feeling for the chicks in pen 10, which are all very small, came from Dyer Island and were the last ones admitted.
We were very cautious with the feedings today as a result of the chicks vomiting yesterday. It's easy to over feed a chick and when that happens it can be very dangerous and life threatening. We cut down on the amount of formula and some of the other fluids for the smaller chicks. I discussed what I was observing for the past two days and Marlei also changed the maximum number of fish that a chick could receive from three to two at each feeding. By approaching it with this strategy, the chicks perked up throughout the day and continued to eat.
I am watching one chick right now. Once it received it's darrows at 8:30, when it was standing with the rest of the chicks, I observed it vomit it's fluids back up onto the group. At the first fish feeding, it wouldn’t keep fish down, then at the water feeding it held down the fluids as well as 30ml of formula. At the second fish feeding it still wouldn't keep fish down. It wasn't looking lethargic at all and when I looked at its fish totals from the day before it was quite high. I'm hoping that it was not overfed and will rebound tomorrow. I will speak to Nola (SANCCOB veterinarian) first thing in the morning to see if she would like this chick moved to ICU. When working in a crisis situation like this and with so many chicks, general feeding procedures to address the masses must be done. When you have the leisure to weigh each chick every morning and base it's daily food consumption on a percentage of their morning weight, it is still difficult to not over feed a chick. It's such a delicate and intricate balance. You can imagine the complexity in this crisis when you have so many people in and out to tube and feed chicks. I had the best opportunity to get a handle on these youngsters because I was put in the same pen for several days in a row.
We were very short on volunteer help today and many people were running around just to help catch up on pens. This being said, it was the most amazingly organized day. Marlei runs a tight and tidy ship. We had everything ready, fish bins labeled for each pen and the right amount of fish (according to the new maximum) for each bird in each pen. Each pen person washed their own dishes which really helped the general people stay on task and have everything ready for each scheduled feeding or tubing. I always tell our staff and volunteers that every task and procedure is important, whether you're in the kitchen making buckets, handling animals or doing feedings. The heart of the operation is always kitchen or fish prep, without this the rest can't happen – everyone's job is important. Thank you Marlei for a perfectly orchestrated day! I am so lucky to be here to work with such passionate people and of course with the penguins.
Oh, I found a few more chicks that have really caught my eye. There is a chick with a “bald/white” face. I saw a piebald penguin (no black cheek patch) during the Treasure oil spill rehabilitation in 2000 and then another one on Robben Island in 2008. I wonder if this chick will be the same. This chick is a feisty one. Every time I pick up a chick in the pen to feed/tube this chick honks at me, lowers its stance and does an alternating stare – little tough guy. Another chick (who bites really hard), is usually staring at me and the first to get fed, it's number is 440. It then sits back to watch the other birds get fed and bites my hands every time I reach into the tub to get a syringe or stomach tube. I was thinking about how #600 was doing, it seems that this little one is quite popular with everyone. Maresia told me about it when she came into volunteer today.
My fingers are starting to heal (of course since I started wearing gloves). Sarah, I would choose to wear a glove when you get here! I just found out that there may be a release of some of the chicks. I hope I will be able to go with Nola – that will really come full circle for me. Well, I'm finally adjusting to the time difference and started to sleep. Tonight I'm going to get to bed early, the last few days have started to catch up with me.
Skittish African Penguins cross a road on Robben Island in South Africa.
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