Central Leader : January 11th 2013
Good buddies, left: Kelly Tarlton's aviculturist Laura Seaman interacts with gentoo penguins as king penguins watch on in the background. New arrivals, above and right: Gentoo penguin chicks huddle close. Click here to watch David Attenborough interact with king penguin chicks in Antarctica. Hanging about, above and right: Colourful king penguins at Kelly Tarlton's Sea Life Aquarium. Photos: JASON OXENHAM Just chillin': A pair of gentoo pals. Up close with the penguins By KARINA ABADIA They hatched throughout December but their mums and dads have been keeping them close during their first weeks. The seven gentoo and three king penguin chicks at Kelly Tarlton's Sea Life Aquarium have the very best carers, resident avicul- turist Laura Seaman says. These penguins make brilliant parents. They are very secretive and protec- tive.'' The newborns are healthy and growing well. When they hatched they were between 80 and 100 grams but they now weigh about a kilo and are between 10cm to 15cm in height. Chicks are really hard work but very rewarding, she says. It's great watching them grow, especially once they get to the stage where they fledge and start exhibiting adult behaviours.'' Breeding happens annu- ally but there is no special program for this. We want them to have as natural a life as possible so we just allow them to breed. Parents raise and feed their chicks. We only intervene if there is a problem or if a chick needs to be in- cubated,'' Miss Seaman says. Providing an environ- ment as close to their natu- ral habitat as possible is also important, she says. Lighting is computer- controlled to replicate the daily cycle of the subantarc- tic. At the moment that means the penguins experi- ence about an hour and half of darkness a day. The temperature is kept at an average of zero degrees and staff make three to five tonnes of snow for the birds each day. Just like humans the 80 penguins in the colony have differing appearances and characteristics, she says. Some are scaredy cats, others like to follow us everywhere. They are quite inquisitive and try to steal our equipment.'' They are identifiable by their unique flipper bands but Miss Seaman can also tell them apart by the way they walk, the size of their beaks, feet and bodies. It's easy to distinguish between gentoo and king penguins, she says. You can spot a gentoo by the white bonnet above their head. They also have quite long tails because they are part of the brush-tail penguin family. The king penguins have distinctive yellow patches on their heads and chests. Gentoos are quite playful and active but kings are a bit above that sort of thing.''
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