Yesterday 30 Little Penguins took flight for Germany’s Wuppertal Zoo from Taronga’s Great Southern Oceans exhibit.
Although the actual flying was done on a commercial aircraft, the move established the first coordinated global breeding program for Little Penguins outside Australia and was possible due to the outstanding success of the Zoo’s breeding programs for the tiny aquatic birds.
Marine Keeper, Jose Altuna, said: “The hardest part was collecting the birds, because they’re most comfortable in the water, which meant we had to go in after them and while they’re small, they can give a really hard nip. They’re very agile in the water too.”
The 20 males and 10 females travelled in pairs in specially made travel containers that were quite dark, just like their burrows so they would feel comfortable and safe during the flight. The boxes were together on the flight, so there was a lot of calling to each other so they all knew they were together.
The transfer was made possible by the results of Taronga’s breeding program, which is the most successful in the region.
The keepers said the Penguins were very comfortable in their exhibit at the new Great Southern Oceans precinct, which opened in 2008, contributing to the success of the breeding program.
The birds had completed full health and quarantine checks and the group was chosen to include birds from six months of age up to established breeding pairs.
Taronga’s Senior Curator, Erna Walraven said: “ The makeup of the group means the program is already functional in Wuppertal and the other German zoos which will take some of the penguins.”
“These are experienced zoos and having a coordinated, fully supported breeding program operating in Germany provides insurance should the Australian wild population be affected by disease or disaster.”
Taronga Penguin exhibit continues to display 40 little Penguins and the only Fiordland Penguin in human care in Australia, Mr Munro. With the breeding season almost upon us, keepers are confident of another successful round of hatchlings.
The Penguin Keeper talk at 2:40pm at Taronga’s Great Southern Oceans is a great time to see these remarkable birds which weigh less than a kilogram and which can swim hundreds of kilometres in the ocean.