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|November 29 - Laurie Macha|
I started at 7:30am today to help with the early morning formula tubings. I went to pen 10 to check on 684 (the little one that vomited up the darrows and kept regurgitating the fish back up all day yesterday). All the chicks in pen 10D looked great, perky and alert. Candice was working on 10B and 10D formulas and I offered to help. I shared what I had experienced in that pen the past two days. We tubed all of the chicks and 684 handled it great! I was so excited; perhaps that little one just had a bad day yesterday. That's the second time that I had the opportunity to work with Candice. She has the most beautiful and warm smile and always makes me feel welcome. These little penguins are so fortunate to have such caring people helping them.
At the 8am meeting, Nola said that I was going to supervise pen 2, which has 80 healthy birds all on fish two times a day. Oh, and I forgot to add that there weren't enough volunteers so I would have to run the pen by myself. This pen needed to have two times in the pool followed by two assist/force feedings with a three fish maximum at each feeding. In the group of 80, most were blues, one adult with a seal bite on its abdomen (whom I refer to as “purple” because of the purple vet wrap around its belly holding the dressing on the wound), one yearling pre-molt with a bum foot, one adult pre-molt, one adult post-most and one molting adult. Whew, that's a lot of birds. But all are healthy and there are no tube feedings, just fish. I didn't know the routine for this pen at all.
Nola gave me a game plan to follow as it's really important to be on schedule and be as efficient as possible. So here's the routine: use a divider to split the pen into two groups of 40, move one group of 40 to a back pen (which is adjacent to pen 2), move the divider, then move the second group of 40 into the same back pen. Next, the rugs and mats needed to be hosed and moved to the mat cleaning station. Then, hose the guano down followed by a thorough scrub with the white vircon, rinse, followed by the pink vircon and rinse. Next, take clean mats and build the best puzzle ever by trying to get all of the concrete covered. Once that is done, take three rugs and disperse over the mats. Now move the closest group of 40 to the end of the clean pen and put them into the pool at the far end of the clean pen. I used a panel to crowd them into the water. These 80 birds are not a forced swim so once they get put in they have the option of climbing back out through a gate. Next, move the second goup of 40 in the clean area and keep them split by putting up a divider. Hose off rugs and mats in the adjacent pen, remove them and bring to the mat cleaning station. Hose the guano down in the adjacent pen and follow the same disinfection process. Build the puzzle again and put down clean, dry rugs. Once the first 40 are done swimming, then close the access gate to the pool and hand lift the next 40 over the pools edge and put them into the water. Move the first 40 to where the second 40 were, put up the divider and open the pool gate so that the second 40 could climb out when they wanted. Now there are a few minutes to disinfect the hallways around pen two and the adjacent pen from where all the dirty guano water traveled to the drain. Now it's time to feed the first 40. Each bird was force/assist/free fed, had three fish, and lifted to the adjacent pen. Remember, every time the penguins are moved from a section, the area was hosed to keep the guano collection down. Once the first 40 were fed, the second 40 were done with their swim and could be locked out of the pool. Then it was time to feed the second 40. They were all fed the same way and when done were put over the divider which was left empty. Once everyone was fed they were moved into pen 2 (still divided), given a light spray to remove any fish oils, then pens were hosed and the first feeding was finished. About 95% of the pen swallowed their fish pretty readily. The adults were a little tougher all the way around.
I had a little spare time because Venessa came into the pen and helped me feed the 80 birds, so I returned the favor and helped Dani tube feed water to her birds in pen 8. I took a quick lunch and it was time to start the whole process again at 2:50. Prior to starting the afternoon feeding, purple had to have his wound dressing changed. Dr. Allison, they even have purple vet wrap here in South Africa – it made my day! This adult was quite strong and I wanted to be really careful of his wound. Dr. Nola had me bring “purple” into the medical office so that she could look at the injury, clean it and put new dressing on. You know, the golden rule at Mystic Aquarium for the Pribilof Islands staff is: Never let the vet get bit. I wasn't about to change that philosophy now.......does letting the vet get flippered in the eye count? Well, as I was holding the bird for Nola, it swung it's flipper forward just as she leaned in to look at the belly and WHOOSH, it slapped it's flipper and the tip of the flipper went right into her eye. She's fine but we both couldn't stop laughing. In fact, back at pen 2 feeding in the afternoon, I shared the story with Mel (another wonderful volunteer who I adore!) and Zach who were helping me feed/record in the pen and we all shared a good laugh. I really enjoyed working in this pen today. It was really nice to have a break from all of the tube feedings and weak chicks and be able to see the healthy strong chicks who are working toward being released.
I just found out that I have tomorrow off and I will be going on the first release of some of the older chicks. I'm so excited – it brings my experience to a full circle. By the way, I had to break down to wearing gloves on both hands when putting the birds into the water. They have such sharp claws and I have a deep scratch on my right pinky that just keeps getting opened up. It's now at the point that every time that happens, it starts to bleed. I made a special trip today to the pick n pay to pick up a package of plasters (or band-aids). It was such a great day today and the weather is just perfect. The last time I went to South Africa, I learned a few words in Afrikaans. I kind of massacre it with how I pronounce it, but, here is my favorite phrase: bie a danke – which means “thank you.” I would like to thank everyone at home for all their hard work to keep things running while Sarah and I lend a hand here in South Africa. Thank you to our leaders at Mystic who really live our mission and support all of these efforts and make them possible, and to all of the folks at SANCCOB and the volunteers for all that they do each day to help the African penguins and how they open their hearts and have welcomed me.
Skittish African Penguins cross a road on Robben Island in South Africa.
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