Two-year-old Mold and three-and-a-half-year-old Flipper, two of the seven Humboldt penguins at the Veermata Jijabai Bhosale Udyan and Zoological Park in Byculla, are set to become parents soon. According to staff members taking care of them for a year now, the female is likely to lay an egg in the next 10 days. The offspring of the penguin couple will be the first of the flightless birds to be born in India. While six of the penguins have paired up, the zoo authorities are still looking for a male penguin who can partner up with two-year-old Bubbles.
Zoo authorities said Mold and Flipper have been mating regularly for the past one week and the hopes of them laying an egg soon are high. “While Donald and Daisy mated a couple of times around two months ago, they are not doing it so very frequently right now. But Mold and Flipper have been mating twice a day for the past week. We are hoping that the mating has been successful and they will lay an egg in another 10 days,” said Madhumita Kale, the veterinarian who has been taking care of them since they arrived in the city.
Kale added that while two of the pairs have already found a nest for themselves, the third couple, Popeye and Olive, are yet to finalise one. “We have placed small crates inside the enclosure with natural materials which can be their nests. But Popeye and Olive have not settled for one yet. While Popeye has been showing interest to mate, Olive won’t allow it until they have found a nest where they can lay the eggs,” she said.
After an egg is laid, it takes around 42 days to hatch and the parents then take turns to incubate them. Kale said they will ensure they don’t interfere with the parenting process. “We will not check the eggs or try to feed the newborn when they are born. We will only check the weight of the newborn penguins to ensure they are getting the nutrition they need. We will leave the feeding to the parents,” she said.
Unlike the names of other animals at Byculla zoo, the Humboldt penguins were given unconventional names of cartoon characters. The staff members taking care of the penguins ruled out the possibility of giving Indian names to the penguins, saying their names will be similar to those of their parents. Even though an even number of penguins had arrived in the city, after one of them died last year during their stay in the quarantine section, one of them has been left without a mate. The zoo authorities are now trying to find another male penguin who can mate with Bubbles.
“We have already asked the agency, Goa Trade, to find another male penguin and we are following up with them at least once a month. Penguins live in colonies and the search can take long since it is important to find a penguin who is compatible with the rest, especially in terms of age,” said a senior official at Byculla zoo.