15 penguin chicks ready to join Polar Adventure

PUBLISHED : Friday, 09 March, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 09 March, 2012, 12:00am

Ocean Park has successfully bred 15 healthy penguin chicks from all of the fertilised eggs that have hatched.

The theme park now has 74 penguins ready to meet the public when its Polar Adventure opens, scheduled for between July and September.

This is the second five-month breeding season for the chicks, with the pilot scheme carried out in 2010, which was not as successful.

At that time, only two eggs hatched and one chick died five weeks later. The chicks from the latest batch are now almost three months old.

Twenty-eight eggs were laid, but 13 did not hatch because they were not fertilised, which occurred naturally. One of the 13 unfertilised eggs was from a king penguin, the second largest of the species.

When Ocean Park handlers noticed that some of the adult penguins were not caring for their offspring adequately, five of the chicks were removed and hand-reared to ensure their survival.

In a pen for the hand-reared chicks, a soft toy resembling an adult penguin sits in the corner. One of the handlers said the penguin chicks - thinking it was their mother - would cuddle underneath it for warmth.

Howard Chuk Hau-chung, the park's senior curator of terrestrial life sciences, said: 'The hand-raised penguins are more comfortable around staff and will approach them more easily than penguins raised by their parents.'

He said the hand-reared chicks would soon rejoin the colony, and adult penguins of the same breed would often take them under their wing.

Chicks usually eat semi-digested fish regurgitated from their parents, but the hand-reared ones are on a diet of herring fillets and krill dipped in formula with vitamins and calcium.

Thirteen of the chicks are Gentoo penguins, and the rest rockhopper penguins. Out of the total of 74, seven are king penguins, 12 are rockhoppers and the rest gentoos.

Swimming lessons are on the agenda for the three-month-old chicks, which usually see their fluffy down covering replaced with the slick waterproof feathers of the adults. Adults usually teach their chicks how to swim, but Chuk said the hand-reared ones would naturally pick up swimming skills when they were in water and instinctively use their wings to stay afloat.

Other animals that will be on display in the Polar Adventure attraction include snowy owls, Arctic foxes, spotted seals and Pacific walruses.

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