Page last updated at 18:02 GMT, Thursday, 6 November 2008

Penguin taken under keepers' wing

Penguin chick
The penguin chick has been given a cuddly toy for company

A penguin chick is being hand-reared by keepers at a Devon marine attraction after its older sibling kept eating all its food.

The chick, who has not yet been sexed or given a name, is one of a pair of African penguins born at Living Coasts in Torquay several weeks ago.

Staff decided to separate it from the other penguins after it failed to develop as quickly as its sibling.

They hope to reintegrate it back into the penguin colony in a few weeks.

When it fell in the pool we decided to give it a helping hand
Tony Durkin, senior head keeper

Tony Durkin, senior head keeper, said: "We prefer not to interfere, as it's better for parent birds to rear their young naturally.

"But as the size difference [between the two penguins] increased, so did the problem.

"The smaller chick was getting some food, just not enough. When it fell in the pool we decided to give it a helping hand."

The chick, who will only be named once its health improves, was initially fed warm, liquidized fish from a syringe.

It was gradually weaned onto chunks of sprat and is now being fed small whole sprats.

It is being fed six times a day but is being left on its own as much as possible so it does not become too used to humans.

It has been given a cuddly toy penguin and a toy puffin to keep it company.

It also has a den made from foam matting and towels to replicate a burrow.

Mr Durkin said: "We want to introduce it back into the colony, [so it is important] that it remains as much as possible on its own.

"It would be on his own in the wild, so it's not something which is unusual."

Staff hope to reunite the chick with its bigger sibling in a few weeks.

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