Taronga Zoo’s Fiordland Crested Penguin, Munro, hopped on the scales this week, allowing keepers to check his weight as he prepares to bulk up for his annual moult.
While many dread the bathroom scales, Munro came running for his morning weigh-in, tipping the scales at a healthy 3.3kg before gulping down a fishy reward.
“All we need to do is place the scales down and he hops straight on. It’s a very positive experience for him and he knows he’ll get a tasty fish afterwards,” said keeper, Jose Altuna.
Munro won’t look quite so trim in summer when he starts preparing for his moulting process, consuming 1.2kg of fish each day and bulking up to an impressive 5.5kg.
Penguins are not waterproof when they moult, so they stay on land for 2-3 weeks until new feathers emerge from below the skin. During that time they can’t swim or hunt for fish, so they increase their food intake prior to the moult to build up fat reserves.
“Munro won’t eat for those three weeks, but he’ll have 2kg of reserve fat to keep him going,” said Jose.
This week’s weigh-in also provided an opportunity for Munro to step out for a morning stroll through the Zoo grounds, an activity that is part of his regular exercise and enrichment.
“Fiordlands are very social birds, so Munro loves interacting with people and exploring novel environments. It also gives us a chance to talk to people about the threats facing Fiordland Penguins in the wild, including habitat destruction and introduced predators,” said Jose.
Fiordland penguins are listed as a 'vulnerable' species and are only found in the wet coastal rainforests of New Zealand's Fiordland and Stewart Islands.
Munro, who is named after Munro Beach in New Zealand, came to Taronga in 2006 after he washed up near Norah Heads suffering from malnutrition after an epic 2,000km swim across the sub-Antarctic waters.
The risk of being a carrier of unknown disease meant that he could not be returned to the wild, but he has found a home and legion of admirers at Taronga.
“He’s always a hit with visitors. When people meet Munro on a morning stroll, they really gain an appreciation for how extraordinary these penguins are,” said Jose.