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|December 11, 2010 - Sarah Dunn|
|Well, I have my first full day under my belt! I started at 8am donning the green slickers and boots. I was assigned to pen 2 working with Neels from France. I was a bit overwhelmed at first, but by the afternoon I started to get a sense of routine. There are currently around 97 penguin chicks in pen 2. This is the group of healthy chicks and all have juvenile plumage. Cleaning the area was almost exactly like cleaning our nesting rooms back home in non-nesting season. There are also about four or five adults in this group as well that are either molting, have health issues with their feet or just need to gain a bit more weight. I was able to assist feeding the birds twice today, just like we feed our birds at the aquarium twice a day, once in the morning and once in the afternoon. The biggest difference is that these birds don't distinguish your hand/fingers from the fish. Initially we allowed almost all of them to be in front of us as we started the feed...this was maybe not such a good idea. Unlike the penguins at the Mystic Aquarium, these guys don't understand what waiting their turn means! My right hand has proof of that! All the birds wear a soft band with a number for identification. The best way to track which birds have eaten is to maintain separation with a barrier, those who've eaten on one side and those who haven't on the other side. Later we also learned to let fewer through so that we could save our hands and arms from the impatient nipping. Pen 2 has three sections…so it worked well to have 10 or so in the feeding area and the rest split between the two other areas. Most were not too difficult to feed…gobbling the fish down very quickly. I didn't get much down time today but I was able to check in on some of the other volunteers working in the other pens to see if they needed any assistance. Some of the chicks are in much rougher shape than those I was working with. It is heart wrenching to see but also makes me very proud that we are able to be here to assist with such an extremely important effort! I hope they all make it! My day today came to a close around 6pm. My hand is not as sore as I thought it would be, but it has made me appreciate those few bites we occasionally get from our birds at home, which I used to think were so bad. Although well trained penguins may hop in your lap and have allowed us at Mystic Aquarium to do programs which have helped provide this opportunity, I wish everyone could understand just how functional those beaks really are! I am amazed at how far most of the volunteers here have traveled to volunteer their assistance. Obviously they have a great passion for the environment, wildlife and penguins. They are right in there taking the bad with the good! In my career I have come across a few animal trainers that would prefer to stay far away from just how functional those beaks are! I am very proud to be part of an aquarium that is making such an effort to connect what we do on a daily basis to what is happening in the native environments of the animals we work with. Hope all is well back home!|
Skittish African Penguins cross a road on Robben Island in South Africa.
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