Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Rejected baby penguin finds a mom

For the past few weeks, Caitlin Hume and fellow New England Aquarium biologist Heather Urquhart have been mothering a 22oz Little Blue Penguin that was rejected by its parents after a difficult hatching.

Little Blue Penguins are native to Australia and New Zealand.

Each night, the two surrogate mums delicately pack the baby - covered in soft, grey-blue down - into a plastic cooler. Inside, the bird rests comfortably, swaddled in a white towel for the car ride home.

Once home, the still-unnamed chick - which was just about to turn 37 days old - waits in the guest room until Hume prepares a baby formula of herring fillet and prawn-like krill that goes into a blender and is heated to about 37 Celsius. The pungent meal, resembling a chocolate shake, is fed to the penguin four times a day using a syringe with a special tip.

After dinner, the penguin enjoys a long nap - not unlike a human baby.

"After you feed him, he'll make some peeping noises for a while, and then he goes to sleep," said Hume. "And then he's out cold until the next feeding" around 5 am.

Source: The Age