Mumbai may soon welcome its very own penguin at the Byculla Zoo after two of the eight Humboldt penguins brought to Mumbai in 2016 from Seoul are expected to be parents. Flipper, the four-and-a-half-year-old female Humboldt penguin, laid an egg on Thursday morning after having mated with Mr Molt. Authorities and senior veterinarians said it was quite a rare feat.
“If the incubation process goes well, then in just 40 days we will have the first Humbolt penguin to be born in India. The incubation is being closely monitored,” said a senior BMC official.
Humboldt penguins usually mate at the age of three-and-a-half. While Flipper is four-and-a-half, Mr Molt will turn three on July 21. “They have just reached their maturity, so we were not expecting Flipper to lay an egg so soon. Also it is quite rare for the penguins to have bred this soon since they arrived at their new homes in Mumbai two years ago,” said Dr Madhumita Kale, head veterinarian and in charge of penguin enclosure. It was on early Thursday morning that the caretakers at the zoo found that the nest built by the penguin pair — Mr Molt and Flipper — had an egg.
Eight penguins — Donald, Daisy, Popeye, Olive, Flipper (the oldest female), Bubble, Mr Molt (the youngest male) and Dory — were brought from Seoul, South Korea, in 2016 to the Veermata Jijabai Bhosale Udyan, popularly known as the Byculla Zoo. Dory died a few months later in October due to bacterial infection raising questions on the decision to get the penguins to Mumbai.
There are two mating seasons: March-April and October-November. Penguins pair up during the entire mating period. After mating, a female penguin lays eggs in a month and a half, and both parents take turns to incubate them. Experts claimed that the Humboldt penguins are known for laying two equal sized eggs within two to four days’ interval and zoo officials are not ruling out the possibility of a second egg.
“We observed that both Mr Molt and Flipper are taking turns to incubate the single egg in the nest as expected. This is a very good sign and indicates that the penguins have settled well in their new home within two years since they were brought here,” said a senior BMC official.