Zoo keepers are impersonating a penguin so they can hand rear a chick. The keepers at Living Coasts in Torquay, Devon, are using a homemade penguin puppet when feeding the chick so it does not become too used to humans. The macaroni penguin was hatched in an incubator because the egg was abandoned after one of its parents fell ill.
The puppet was made from an industrial black rubber glove decorated with red eyes and yellow plumes. The chick is fed every three hours during the day on blended filleted herring, krill, vitamins and water. The mixture is warmed to 35C and fed to the chick using a syringe.
Staff are also playing the chick a recording of the sound of the macaroni penguin group. Exhibit manager Clare Rugg said: "This way contact is kept to a minimum - yes, the chick will hear and see keepers, but it will also see the glove which has the shape and colour of an adult penguin."
Living Coasts Director Elaine Hayes said two birds were needed to look after an egg so it was abandoned after one became ill. She said the adult bird had since recovered. "We decided to hand rear because the egg was fertile but would not have survived and there are not many macaroni penguins in the UK," she said.