On Friday, 13 January 2017, a juvenile northern rockhopper penguin, Miss Harold Custard, was reunited with her colony at the Two Oceans Aquarium after being successfully hatched and hand-reared by the Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds (SANCCOB).
The egg was laid by Roxy and Grommet at the Aquarium, but brought to SANCCOB to be raised given the fact that they are still inexperienced penguin parents.
Miss Harold Custard was hatched on 23 September 2016 in SANCCOB’s specialised Chick Rearing Unit at 69 grams and quickly grew into a healthy juvenile with the help of SANCCOB’s experienced staff. Her name, Miss Harold Custard, has an interesting back-story as Romy Klusener, SANCCOB’s Chick Rearing Unit Supervisor, explained, “We initially thought it was a male and due to her discerning character, the name Harold seemed appropriate. As a chick, the tip of her beak was a custard-yellow which gave the impression that she dipped her beak in custard. As such, the word ‘Custard’ was added to her name. After doing the blood tests to determine her sex, it was confirmed that she was, in fact, a female rockhopper.”
After nearly four months of care, Miss Custard was reunited with her parents, Roxy and Grommet, at the Penguin Exhibit at the Two Ocean’s Aquarium. “We were thrilled that SANCCOB could step in and take on the role of penguin parents. This resulted in the successful rearing of our beautiful little rockhopper chick. SANCCOB not only does phenomenal seabird rehabilitation work, but also contributes to the conservation and husbandry research of many seabird species. A huge big thank you to their very dedicated and committed team,” said Maryke Musson, Curator of the Two Oceans Aquarium.
The Penguin Exhibit at the Aquarium is home to ten endangered northern rockhopper penguins. All of these resident penguins were initially found stranded on southern Cape beaches, rescued and then rehabilitated by SANCCOB before taking up permanent residence at the Aquarium. These penguins are unable to be released back into the wild due to the fact that they could potentially carry diseases endemic to South African seabirds, back to their native colonies.
Klusener added, “We were sad to bid farewell to Miss Custard but glad that we could ensure that she had the best chance of survival.”
Established in 1968, SANCCOB is well known for its work with endangered African penguins and has been successfully hatching African penguins and other seabirds in its specialised Chick Rearing Unit since 2011.
For further information about the Penguin Exhibit and the Aquarium’s resident penguin colonies (rockhopper and African), please visit aquarium.co.za
Northern rockhopper (Eudyptes moseleyi) penguins are found in the South Atlantic and Indian Oceans. The majority of northern rockhopper penguins can be found on Gough Island and the Tristan da Cunha group of islands. The species is classified as endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and its estimated that less than 240 000 breeding pairs remain in the wild today.
Rockhopper penguins are the smallest of the crested penguin species. They live on rocky, inaccessible coasts. Due to their incredible jumping ability, they are recognised as “mountaineers” among penguins.