The male penguin chick, named Oreo, was born to Humboldt penguins Donald and Daisy in Byculla zoo on May 1 this year. (BMC)
The male penguin chick, named Oreo, was born to Humboldt penguins Donald and Daisy in Byculla zoo on May 1 this year. (BMC)

Byculla zoo welcomes two penguin chicks

Besides the two penguin chicks, the Byculla zoo currently has seven adult penguins — three males and four females.
By Mehul R Thakkar, Mumbai
UPDATED ON SEP 15, 2021 10:03 PM IST

The Byculla zoo welcomed two penguin chicks this year, said Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) in a statement on Wednesday. The male penguin chick, named Oreo, was born to Humboldt penguins Donald and Daisy on May 1 this year and is four months old now.

Meanwhile, another penguin chick was born to Flipper, the oldest female among the Humboldts, and Mr Molt, the youngest male in the zoo, on August 19. The baby penguin is stable and under the observation of zoo authorities. The sex of the penguin will be determined by a DNA test later.

Dr Sanjay Tripathi, director of Byculla zoo, said, “The reason behind naming the male chick Oreo was spontaneous. We will also name the 25-days-old baby penguin in the coming days after sex determination.”

Tripathi added, “The enclosure of penguins has a capacity of housing 25 penguins at a time and with the addition of two, we have a total of nine penguins in the enclosure.” As part of its revamp project, the Byculla zoo, also known as the Veermata Jijabai Bhosale Udyan, bought eight penguins from Seoul in South Korea on July 26, 2016, at the cost of 45 crore.

However, on October 23, 2016, one of them, named Dory, died owing to bacterial infection, which led to protests from political parties and activists.

The seven others – Bubble (5 years), Mr Molt (5 years), Donald (5.5 years), Daisy (5.5 years), Popeye (6 years), Olive (7 years) and Flipper (8 years)– were displayed to the public in March 2017.

Mumbai mayor Kishori Pednekar said, “Bubble, who did not have a mate till now is taking good care of Oreo.” Oreo, now four months old, has mixed well with the colony, added Pednekar.

Pednekar also slammed those who criticised the BMC over its spending on the upkeep of the penguins. Pednekar said the revenue of the zoo has gone up drastically after the penguins came. Recently, political parties, including BJP, Congress and Samajwadi Party (SP), had cornered the BMC over floating tenders worth 16 crore for maintenance and upkeep of the penguins.

The BMC, under which the Byculla zoo comes, said, “Oreo has been completely parent reared and a team of vets only assisted the parents by feeding the parents every two-three hours. This ensures that parents feed the chick well. In addition, the vets also check the chick’s weight every morning, which helps them decide whether the chick needs supplemental feeding.”

The statement added, “Oreo has switched to eating fish like an adult penguin now and doesn’t need any special diet. He is in his juvenile coat and will undergo moulting into his adult coat at about 1 year. This moulting is very stressful for young penguins; hence we are taking utmost care.”

According to zoo authorities, the 25-days-old baby penguin is also being kept under close observation. According to authorities, up to three months of age, young penguins are very susceptible to diseases since they have weak immunity. The vets do a physical check every morning, auscultate the chick and give formula feeding.

Humboldt penguins usually mate after the age of 3.5 in two mating seasons — March to April and October to November. Penguins pair up during the entire mating period. After mating, a female penguin lays eggs in 1.5 months, and parents take turns to incubate them.

Meanwhile, the Byculla zoo is shut for general public since April 05, 2021 as the second wave of Covid hit the city. There are no plans to open the zoo to the general public yet, in anticipation of a third wave, said zoo authorities.

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