Once upon a time there was a love story of epic proportions between Maggie and Jim which endured for a lifetime, in yellow-eyed penguin years. For five years they hung out together, enduring all odds, fishing, swimming, and mating. Their gender of their current offspring was unknown, but hey, its 2017 and who cares about such things! They’ll figure that out when s/he decides to mate, which will be in about 2 years. The chick will lose its down, develop a yellow stripe on his eye when its ready, and then will choose a mate, presumably of the opposite sex, although with the over abundance of males and lack of females, gay couples evolve and make quite good surrogate parents!
The story of these 2000 penguins is enchanting. With only 500-600 remaining on the mainland, the Penguin Conservation Reserve in Dunedin is one of only 2 in New Zealand which care for and aid penguins in their quest for survival. They have developed an environment which supports these shy, solitary penguins in a natural habitat, while learning more about penguin society. Maggie and Jim are the parents of the new chick, currently the only one in the reserve. The parents were at work while we were there. . .out swimming and food-gathering for the kilogram of regurgitated food the chick needs to survive.
To observe these penguins, a series of tunnels and blinds have been built because hey, these guys demand privacy. They want little or NO human contact.
Our small group of 9 walked silently toward the area that the chick had chosen as his hideout while his parents were at work. Maggie and Jim started leaving him alone about 2 weeks ago and he was terrified for a few days, hiding in the nest and flapping excitedly when his parents returned. After a few days he ventured out and has now claimed a spot near a viewing area (how convenient!) as his spot.
Now, to the story of the love triangle. Seems that another male, Rodd, was feeling a bit lonely and started hanging around Maggie. One day as he and Jim were out swimming they happened to alight onto the beach at the same time. On the walk across the beach, which is quite a walk. . . (See Don on said beach), and onward more than 400 meters after the beach. . .well, Rodd proceeded to continually whack Jim with his flippers and Jim retaliated. However, our Jim, being older and wiser, took the high road and didn’t fight back, saving his energy, . . .until they got in sight of Maggie, at which point Jim whacked the heck out of Rodd, thus proving his superiority. Maggie was properly impressed, kept Jim as her mate, and produced the chick.
However, there’s a sad PS. There were actually two eggs and one was destroyed. Guess who was The Destroyer. . .yep. . . .Rodd.
As for the gay couple. . .yep, two males hooked up because they seemed to want a chick. Nature wouldn’t cooperate, so the humans have given them a fake egg to nurture, which they rejected after realizing they had been duped. They’re now experimenting with giving them a real egg and there’s thought that perhaps they could nurture an orphan who is currently in the penguin hospital.
Now, about the hospital. . .there are currently 3 chicks who have been orphaned, one female who was the victim of a barracuda attack, and one male whose side got shaved by either a boat propeller or another attacker. You can see his damaged side and feathers.
He’s hand-fed,which is quite labor intensive because , as you remember, they are solitary and don’t like humans.
So, we LOVED our visit to the penguin reserve and I only wish I were the author of a children’s book so I could write an enchanting story about their society!