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Penguins get new pals

SCOTT MORGAN
Last updated 08:00 29/12/2010
Penguins
GROWING COLONY: Auckland Zoo keeper Michelle Whybrow interacts with blue penguin Coral and her new friends during feeding time.
Penguins
GROWING COLONY: Auckland Zoo keeper Michelle Whybrow interacts with blue penguin Coral and her new friends during feeding time.

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CORAL the penguin has plenty of new friends after spending much of last year alone.

Five of Auckland Zoo's blue penguins died from unrelated causes during a six-month period between late 2008 and early 2009, leaving her as the sole survivor.

But she's since been joined by four new penguins to form a small colony.

There's male penguin Marlin, who lost a flipper before coming to the zoo, and more recently females Moki, Dori and an unnamed addition whose sex is yet to be determined.

The three most recent birds were rescued by members of the public after suffering various injuries on west coast beaches.

The colony will grow by a further three penguins next year when Napier's Marineland closes. Keeper Michelle Whybrow says it's fantastic for Coral to finally have some company again.

"From what I've seen they seem a lot more secure and happy when there are other birds around."

The increase in numbers could see breeding take place, although that's unlikely until the two males from Marineland join the colony.

Ms Whybrow says Coral and Marlin produced one egg during the last breeding season, but it broke.

The pair also started to build a nest during the last few months but the introduction of the new females disrupted that process.

A move to a redeveloped enclosure later next year also means it's unlikely there'll be any new penguin chicks this summer.

"The move will probably put them off," Ms Whybrow says.

The colony will remain in an enclosure away the public until then.

Mrs Whybrow says the zoo only keeps penguins that have been injured or sick after being rescued by the public.

"They're ones that won't survive in the wild."

But she says it's important for people to realise that if they see a penguin that's lost a lot of feathers, it may just be moulting rather than sick.

The penguins are sharing an enclosure with a shag and New Zealand dotterel.

All the birds will move into their new area, known as the sea lion and penguin shores, during summer.

"You don't want to give them everything new all at one time."

The exhibit will become `the coast' as part of the zoo's New Zealand development, Te Wao Nui, in September 2011.

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- Auckland City Harbour News

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