Zookeepers’ quick reaction to broken egg inside penguin habitat saves premature chick

They suspect a penguin had accidentally stepped on the egg
July 27, 2018 12:09 pm Last Updated: July 27, 2018 12:09 pm

Is there anything more adorable than a baby animal snuggled up against a stuffed animal that shares the same looks? The answer is no.

A video of a one-month-old Humboldt penguin chick has been making the rounds on every social media website, and the images are painfully cute. While the baby penguin appears happy and healthy now, it wasn’t always sunshine and rainbows for the little one.

A Humboldt penguin chick snuggles with a stuffed penguin at the ZSL London Zoo in the United Kingdom. (Courtesy of © ZSL London Zoo)

Earlier this year, zookeepers at the ZSL London Zoo in London, United Kingdom, were checking the Humboldt penguins’ nestboxes when they noticed something horribly wrong. One of the eggs was broken.

“The chick had a little way to go before she should have hatched, so it was very much touch and go – but we knew we had to get her safely out of the shell and into an incubator to give her a fighting chance,” Suzi Hyde, a penguin keeper at the ZSL London Zoo, said.

In the wild, Humboldt penguins experience a high rate of egg mortality due to a number of factors, one being accidental breakage. (Pixabay)

Keepers rushed the broken egg—which they suspected a penguin had accidentally stepped on—to their clinic, racing against the clock.

Veterinarians used tweezers to carefully pluck the small pieces of broken shell off of the tiny chick that was still inside of the egg. Once they were able to lift the baby penguin gingerly out of the egg, they placed her inside her own incubation room.

But she wasn’t out of the woods yet.

While the estimated number of Humboldt penguins left in the wild varies from a few thousand to 12,000, their population is decreasing annually. (Pixabay)

The chick, nicknamed Rainbow, was given a stuffed penguin, and for the next several weeks she spent time with her cuddly friend, and was hand-fed three times a day by zookeepers.

“We were overjoyed when she started begging for food by opening her mouth wide and making tiny squawks,” Hyde said. “It was the first sign that she might just make it.”

The penguin chick, nicknamed Rainbow, will continue to receive care in the incubation room until she reaches 10 weeks old. After, she will be released into the zoo’s “penguin nursery.”(Courtesy of © ZSL London Zoo)

Rainbow still has a few more weeks to go before she joins what the zoo calls their “penguin nursery,” where she’ll learn to swim, but she’s made excellent progress thus far.

Zookeepers predict that once she leaves the incubation room she’ll weigh just around 6.6 pounds. When they rescued her, she weighed 2.5 ounces.