Otago Daily Times

100 hoiho chicks given hos­pi­tal care

- MOLLY HOUSEMAN molly.houseman@odt.co.nz

WILDLIFE Hos­pi­tal staff, rangers and vol­un­teers have been work­ing around the clock to take care of 100 yel­low­eyed pen­guin chicks since the be­gin­ning of this month.

Hoiho chicks be­gan to hatch across Otago and South­land in late October, and the hos­pi­tal had re­ceived pa­tients with diph­the­ria stom­ati­tis (an in­fec­tion that can cause res­pi­ra­tory prob­lems) in waves ever since.

Hos­pi­tal manager Jor­dana Whyte said the hoiho chicks weighed just 120g to 150g.

‘‘These lit­tle birds are so tiny — just a hand­ful — so mostly they eat, poop and sleep, just like most ba­bies.’’

They were brought in by field teams from the De­part­ment of Con­ser­va­tion, the Yel­low­eyed Pen­guin Trust, Pen­guin Place, Pen­guin Res­cue, and Uni­ver­sity of Otago re­searchers and vol­un­teers who had been out in ‘‘every weather’’.

‘‘Our vet team and helpers have been ab­so­lutely run off their feet,’’ Ms Whyte said.

While in care, brooder units were used to keep them warm and main­tain hu­mid­ity sim­i­lar to what they would ex­pe­ri­ence in their nest.

They were also given toys for some­thing to cud­dle up to, in the man­ner they would nes­tle up to a par­ent, she said.

‘‘Some­times we see the chicks try­ing to beg food off the teddy bears, so it’s work­ing at least a bit to fool them.’’

But their diet was not cute. Hos­pi­tal staff feed the chicks a ‘‘fish slurry’’, which was a mix­ture of sar­dines, white fish, sal­mon and some liq­uid nu­tri­ents, up to five times a day.

‘‘Thank good­ness for vol­un­teers with strong stom­achs,’’ Ms Whyte said.

While some chicks could be treated in their nest, field rangers would make the call on which pen­guins needed to be taken into care.

This year, most re­quired ex­tra care as some of the par­ents were in­ex­pe­ri­enced or first­time breed­ers and their chicks had not thrived as a re­sult, she said.

‘‘There are some coming to us with res­pi­ra­tory dis­tress — the cause of which we are still look­ing into.’’

While the work could be re­ward­ing, it was hard and heart­break­ing at times, Ms Whyte said.

But more than 40 of the chicks had al­ready been re­turned home which was a ‘‘great re­sult’’.

‘‘We are hop­ing the ma­jor­ity of the pa­tients we have now will also be cleared to go back home soon.’’

 ?? PHOTO: SUP­PLIED ?? Feed me . . . One of the 100 yel­low­eyed pen­guin chicks ad­mit­ted to the Dunedin Wildlife Hos­pi­tal this month.
PHOTO: SUP­PLIED Feed me . . . One of the 100 yel­low­eyed pen­guin chicks ad­mit­ted to the Dunedin Wildlife Hos­pi­tal this month.
 ??  ?? Jor­dana Whyte
Jor­dana Whyte

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