As soon as it hatched, it was already fighting for its life. The baby Humboldt penguin was kicked out of the nest by an aggressive neighboring couple already on the 19th day of its life. However, the apparently dead bird was saved by a team of breeders and today visitors to the Prague Zoo can observe it in the Penguin Pavilion exhibit.
“He’s a huge fighter, a prodigy. He spent two days in the care of the vet and then we literally weaned him off because he couldn’t go back to his parents. The bond between them was broken,” explains head breeder Jakub Mezei. “We fed him through a tube, then special instant porridge, then artificially digested fish. In less than two months, he finally switched to whole fish, which we feed the adult penguins.”
However, the breeders’ efforts could not end even with the transition to a regular feeding regime. After a long time in the breeding grounds, the little feathered penguin did not know the other penguins and was even afraid of them. He thought he belonged to the people. The breeders had to let him gradually get used to his fellows, but thanks to patience, they eventually succeeded.
Today, visitors can find the little penguin in the exhibit near the main entrance. It is easy to recognize him in a flock of thirty – although the young has already lost its down feathers, it still does not have the typical black and white coat and is Gray in color. It will fully acquire the form of adults only at the end of next summer. His gender is not yet clear.
“Whether it is a female or a male will only be reliably revealed by blood tests, the results of which we are currently awaiting. The baby does not yet have a definitive name. There are three of us in the team of penguin breeders and we call each of them differently – in the game there is Buřtík, Láska and Štístko. So we are ready for both gender variants and we also have a conciliatory middle gender in reserve,” adds Mezei.
Visitors can get to know the young during the guided feeding of the penguins, which takes place every day in the summer from 11 a.m.
Prague Zoo has been breeding Humboldt penguins since the beginning of the 1960s and is one of their successful European breeders. In order, it is already the 135th cub of this species in the history of the Prague Zoo, but it stands out with its story.
Photo by Tereza Šolcová, Prague Zoo