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|November 19, 2012 - Laurie Macha|
I arrived at SANCCOB extremely anxious to say hello to longtime friends and colleagues. I received such warm welcomes from all the staff and I immediately felt that even though two years had passed since my last visit, it seemed like yesterday.
There are a lot of changes that occurred since my last visit, especially the new chick rearing unit. I haven't had a chance to tour through it but this is a new building dedicated to neonate chicks. My first assignment is to work with one of the newer SANCCOB staff members, Romy. Today Romy is in charge of all the birds in ICU. I reacquainted myself with the basic routines, bird handling, force feeding, medicating and tubing birds. I realized that I really needed a refresher, I had forgotten where a lot of things are located and some of the routines were a little different. Romy was so patient with my questions and my speed needs a little touch up as well. There are about 25 penguins, a few species of flighted birds (gulls and cormorants) and two of the largest, very scary looking (to me) petrels.
We started the morning by taking blood from all the birds in ICU. This put us behind for most of the day. Now one of my personal goals during this trip is to gain more experience handling and rehabbing flighted birds. During the last trip I realized that I was a bit afraid of the gannets. They are beautiful birds with giant clacking beaks and it was a bit intimidating. I mentioned to Romy that I wanted to overcome this fear and she was extremely happy to accommodate and threw me right in, today! The petrels are extremely powerful birds with strong beaks and they even eat other birds - yikes! They are kept in an area where they are roomies with other birds. I learned to restrain and carry them and I held them for Romy to tube water. At the next tubing Romy had me do it all, restrain, pass a stomach tube and tube darrows. Their beaks are so amazingly strong, they bite down and chomp really really hard. My finger is swollen from the pressure of their beaks when trying to pry open the beak and pass the tube.
I spent the majority of the day tubing water twice, formula twice, darrows twice and force feeding twice. The ICU birds had some adults, a few blues, a few fluffies, all of varying sizes and body condition. There is one poor adult with a split beak and I was told he was hit by a car. Two other blues had puncture wounds like they had been bitten by a seal or other predator. One little blue has a bum foot but has quite an appetite and swallowed all fish offered and even demonstrated a great feeding reflex when tubing and assisting by swallowing the tube on his own.
Then there is 575, a very rambunctious adult who kept stealing fish from the bucket. Romy and I had to finally move him out of the pen so we could feed the rest of the birds. We had started to catch up Romy had to leave to pick up some abandoned chicks from Stony Point. I then got the chance to work with another new staff member, Marguerite. I saw immediately the wonderful working relationship between these two, this is so critical when working in rehab and through many crises.
To end the day, Romy brought in 19 chicks for admit........they are arriving! Let's see what tomorrow brings. I'm so excited to be here to help with the chick bolstering project and represent Mystic Aquarium in the conservation of the endangered African penguin.
Skittish African Penguins cross a road on Robben Island in South Africa.
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