Mumbai: The city, more specifically, the Veermata Jijabai Bhosale Udyan, is now home to two more Humboldt penguins - two new chicks having made their debut in May and August, this year.
The first chick, a male, was born on May 1, 2021, to five-year-olds Donald and Daisy and has been named Oreo by the zoo authorities. The second chick was born on August 19, 2021, to the other five-year-old penguin pair Molt (M) and Flipper (F). Zoo authorities said they were yet to identify the sex of the chick, so it is yet to be named.
To hark back to pre-Covid times, on August 15, 2018, Molt and Flipper had a baby chick which passed away within a week of its birth. The autopsy report had revealed the cause of death to be ‘yolk sac retention’ and liver dysfunction.
Dr Sanjay Tripathi, director, Byculla Zoo, said that after the 2018 incident, special care was provided to the penguins during their breeding season - May-June and October-November.
“We ensured that the penguins got enough exposure to sunlight. We have a specialised glass chamber built for this purpose, as sun exposure helps during penguins’ moulting period, which eventually plays a key role during the breeding season,” Dr Tripathi told the FPJ on Wednesday.
Both the chicks are being entirely reared by their biological parents and vets have been monitoring the activities of the penguins 24x7, Dr Tripathi informed. The penguins are being kept inside an artificial, ‘arctic’ exhibit that mimics their natural habitat.
Oreo is now acclimatised to his environment and has been placed in the main exhibit while the newborn continues to nest in with its parents.
“The newborn will be in the nest for two-three months as it will take some time for it to build up immunity. Oreo is now four months old and has started to gel well with the other penguins in the pen,” said Dr Tripathi.
Apart from chicks, there are seven Humboldt Penguins in the zoo, of which two pairs have successfully bred this year. In all, eight penguins were brought from Seoul in 2016; one of them, Dory, a female, died within three months of arrival at the quarantine facility.
The existing pen has enough space to facilitate as many as 25 penguins, Dr Tripathi said.
Later in the day, zoo authorities issued a statement that Oreo’s parents had helped him acclimatise with the environment.
“Oreo has switched to eating fish like other penguins and doesn’t need any special diet,” the statement read.
Last week, a controversy had erupted after the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) floated a Rs 15.26 crore tender for the upkeep of the penguin zoo for three years. The Congress and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the BMC had raised eyebrows at the tender amount and questioned the ruling Shiv Sena and the BMC administration for such exorbitant spending during the pandemic.
Meanwhile, Mumbai Mayor Kishori Pednekar, who on Wednesday announced the arrival of the penguins by calling a press conference, maintained that the contract will continue till 2024.
“The penguins are an important part of the zoo as the revenue of the zoo has increased after their arrival. The money will be spent not just in upkeep of the pen but will also cover veterinary and fodder costs, amongst other maintenance charges,” Pednekar said on Wednesday.
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