Royal penguin still in critical condition

  • 20/02/2013

An ailing royal penguin that washed up on the shores of the Wairarapa has been taken to Wellington Zoo in a critical condition.

Royal penguins usually live on MacQuarie Island, halfway between here and Antarctica, and this is only the fourth to appear on North Island shores since 1880.

The juvenile royal penguin's being fed a half-salmon, half-sardine mix with vitamins twice a day. Zoo staff call it "Powerade for penguins". He's also on a drip.

“The two main problems with this bird are kidney failure and starvation,” says Wellington Zoo vet Lisa Argilla. “The kidney failure has occurred because it's come ashore to moult and it's very, very hot.”

He was found at Tora Beach on the Wairarapa coast on Sunday.

“Something's happened out at sea,” says Ms Argilla. “He's not found enough food. Something's gone wrong with his hunting and he's come ashore because he has to moult.”

The zoo's giving him a 20 to 30 percent chance of survival.

Royal penguins usually land at MacQuarie Island. Te Papa's expert Colin Miskelly says they come ashore at this time of year to breed and to moult.

“They have what's referred to as a ‘catastrophic moult’, so they have to stay ashore while they shed all of their old feathers and grow a new set, and that takes about two to three weeks,” he says.

Royal penguins are the largest of the crested penguins in the sub-Antarctic. 

There are only three others known to have come to the North Island – one at Lyall Bay in 1926, another in 1880 at Napier, and the last one six years ago at Cape Palliser.

But his arrival's not as surprising as the zoo's famous former resident – emperor penguin Happy Feet.

“That was so exceptional because it was so much further north than is usually the case for emperor penguins,” says Mr Miskelly.

If the penguin's condition improves over the next few days, he'll spend six weeks at the zoo before he's released back into the wild off the lower South Island.

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source: newshub archive