In less than a month, the eight Humboldt penguins that arrived at Byculla zoo on July 26 will be shifted from the quarantined section to the interpretation centre where the public will be able to see them, said zoo officials.
Officials from the Veermata Jijabai Bhosale Udyan and Zoo said the three male and five female Humboldt penguins were healthy and an increase in their height and weight had been registered. “After we saw that they had adjusted to the environment we developed for them, our team of experts decided to shift the animals to their permanent section in the zoo by mid-November. The enclosure is likely to be open for public viewing by November 15,” said Dr Sanjay Tripathi, director, Byculla Zoo.
“The younger penguins have put on 2 to 3kg, while the older ones now weigh 1 to 2kg more,” said Dr Madhurita Kale, veterinarian in-charge of the penguins. “Their height has increased by a few centimetres but they have almost reached their maximum height. The youngest ones might grow a little bit more,” she said.
Penguins get new names
All the penguins at the zoo have been named after famous Disney characters depending on their attributes.
The two youngest females that are a year old are called Bubble and Dory. “Bubble is the naughtiest of all the penguins. She does not let others eat before she does. She attacks us as soon as we enter the quarantined area,” said Dr Madhurita Kale, veterinarian in-charge of the penguins.
The most playful of all the penguins is the youngest male, Mr Molt. “In July when Molt was brought to the zoo, he was molting (shedding his skin, which regenerates on its own every year). Thus, we decided to name him Mr Molt,” said Kale.
The eldest penguin, Flipper, is three years old. She is the most dominant and is protective of her family.
The remaining penguins have been named after couples such as Donald and Daisy, Popeye and Olive. They are all between the ages of 2 and 3.
Penguins get colourful balls to play with
The animals have been given colourful balls to play with. “While Bubble and Mr Molt drag all the other penguins into the pool, the young ones get bored and chase the whole family out. They enjoy having the pool to themselves,” said Dr Kale.
Zoo officials pointed out that the penguins get confused when they leave their gumboots close to their swimming tank. “They start screaming at the boots, thinking they are foreign objects that plan to attack them,” said Dr Tripathi.
What do they eat?
When the group was brought to Mumbai they were fed fish species such as bombay duck and eel. However, over the past month they have been eating mackerel, anchovies and sardines. “The contractor has created a kitchen facility close to the quarantined section from where the maintenance staff can provide the food on a regular basis,” said Dr Tripathi.
What do the vets wear?
The vets wear full lab coats, gum boots, face masks and head caps, mostly to prevent infecting the penguins or catching infections from them.
Where do they come from?
The Humboldt penguin is a south American species found in coastal Peru and Chile.
Where are they currently being kept?
The 250-sq ft quarantined enclosure has been designed as per the climatic conditions where they are found, to make it easy for them to acclimatise to the change in location. These enclosures have a temperature-controlled environment of 4-24 degrees celsius.
What will their exhibition centre be like?
The exhibition area will be spread across 1,550 sq ft, located at the zoo’s interpretation centre. The temporary structure will be a replica of the enclosure that will house the penguins in November.