FLIPPER HAS stayed put on her egg for days without food. Her only respite comes from her partner Mr Molt, whenever he decides to do his bit. All this is happening in anticipation of the arrival of the first offspring of the penguins that had arrived in Mumbai from Seoul in 2016.
In this case, the anticipation is shared by the whole city, as it awaits the first-ever penguin to be born in India sometime this week. Flipper, one of the eight Humbolt penguins brought to the Veermata Jijabai Udyan, popularly called the Byculla Zoo, had laid an egg on July 5 after mating with Mr Molt, another of the penguins. “The 40-day incubation period will end on August 15, so, we are expecting the egg to hatch tomorrow,” said Dr Sanjay Tripathi, director of Byculla Zoo.
The BMC-run zoo, which is usually closed on Wednesday, will remain open on August 15 on the occasion of Independence Day. Many visitors are expected to visit the penguins. Since it is the first time that a penguin will be born in the country, a team of doctors, which is continuously monitoring the egg, have also been in touch with their counterparts abroad. “We are speaking to other experts to understand what we should expect and how to prepare. We are also reading about the process involved and watching videos,” said a member of the monitoring team.
Since the egg was laid, both the parents are taking turns to incubate it. “Flipper sometimes spends three to four days incubating it. On these days, she doesn’t even show interest in food. Mr Molt also takes turns but he ensures that he eats. When the mother is with her egg, she is very protective and gets aggressive. But otherwise, she is calm,” said the member, adding that it is usual penguin behaviour.
After the egg hatches, the baby penguin will be closely monitored for at least three months. “For three months, the parents will take care of the baby and provide food. After three months, they are stronger and can take care of themselves. Only then can they be brought out to be exhibited,” said the team member.
Dr Madhumita Kale, Head Veterinarian at the zoo and in charge of the penguins, said: “They can be born anytime this week. The penguins are first-time parents and it is possible that there may not be a chick in the egg. We will have to wait and see.” Eight penguins — Donald, Daisy, Popeye, Olive, Flipper (oldest female), Bubble, Mr Molt (youngest male) and Dory — were brought from Seoul to the zoo. Dory had died a few months later in October 2016 due to bacterial infection.
The zoo, meanwhile, has received a letter from an excited animal lover, who has suggested several names for the baby penguin. Mischka Mangurdekar, a six-year-old child from Andheri, has written to the zoo director suggesting several names, including ‘Ice-Cube’ and ‘Vanilla’ in case it’s a female and ‘Cookie’ and ‘Apollo’ if it’s a male. “I am very excited and will go to see it as soon as it is hatched. I have seen the parents several times and now I want to see the baby,” said Mangurdekar.