Pollock, Penguin Poo, and a Prize

Jackson Pollock would be proud, and when Rosalie sees lots of penguin poo like this around the reserve, she is pleased.

Modern art...or penguin poo?
Modern art...or penguin poo?

Plenty of white penguin poo means the penguins are healthy, eating well, and will not need the hospital. Penguins that live further south and eat lots of krill (like in the Antarctic) have pink poo. But when the poo turns dark and greenish, it means the penguin is starving and actually starting to digest itself as a survival technique. Many of the penguins in the hospital were originally taken in because they were starving, but it is a combination of factors that keeps them in the hospital for treatment on top of their two substantial salmon meals a day. Throat infections and parasites are common problems and make it difficult for the penguin to eat. A penguin that is too thin is unable stay warm in the water or survive the moult. While moulting, old feathers are pushed out by new feathers and the penguin’s body is not as waterproof. The penguin would get soaked to the skin and freeze in the water if they fished during the moult, so over those four weeks the penguins must fast.

Just a few feathers off the back please...
Just a few feathers off the back please...Photograph by Anna Leichter.

Rosalie isn’t the only one interested in penguin poo. In 2005, two scientists in Europe received the “Ig Nobel” Prize (a humorous research award handed out at Harvard University) in “Fluid Dynamics” for their study entitled: Pressures Produced When Penguins Pooh – Calculations on Avian Defaecation. Their research paper sounds…well… explosive!

On another note, we released seven penguins last Wednesday, one chick and six adults, and they all weighed 5.5 to 6.5 kilos. Now that’s enough fat to hold them while they get their sea legs (and fins) back after recovering from various injuries, starvation, infections and parasites. There are only a few moulting penguins on the reserve now. Here is one we found standing patiently under the canopy and looking magnificent in a new coat…nearly four long weeks without eating…almost done.

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