Rescued pair get second chance at love – and life

Two proof of positive role captivity can play

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Two adult African penguins, one a shark bite victim and the other found caught in a cargo net, have found their happily-ever-after at the East London Aquarium.
Brought to the aquarium a month apart, the two love birds met while being rehabilitated, and according to aquarium assistant, Ilse Rheeder, they paired up only two days after they met and are now inseparable.
“This was completely random; what are the chances of two penguins meeting up at a rehab centre and falling in love,” said Rheeder laughing.
The male penguin, dubbed Occy for now, was found in March near the Chalumna River. He was found ensnared in cargo netting with an octopus biting his foot.
“He was strapped up in the netting quite badly; it was around his neck and body so he couldn’t move at all.
“There was a bit of swelling from the octopus bite, but we sorted that out and he’s recovered really nicely,” she said.
“Cargo nets are a big problem and we have a lot of birds that get trapped in them, especially near rivers.”
The female penguin, still to be named, was found in Chintsa West in February with a massive shark bite wound to her abdomen and the left side of her body.
While recovering fairly well, she has lost the use of her left flipper and cannot be released back into the ocean.
“She had a very bad wound, but we decided not to amputate so she still has her flipper, although she can’t move it at all.
“It took me just over two months to rehabilitate her.
“They’ve both already gone through their first moult so we think they are both about three years old.
“I still haven’t named either of them properly because we haven’t quite figured out their personalities yet,” she said.
The couple were introduced into the aquarium’s penguin colony two weeks ago, and so far both are enjoying their honeymoon phase with morning swims and lots of sun bathing.
Rheeder said if the circumstances were different, Occy would have been released back into the wild.
“His recovery went really well so he was a good candidate to be released, but now that he has paired up, we can’t separate the couple,” said Rheeder.
She said penguins mated for life and in nature, should one of the partners die; they could take up to seven years to find a new partner.
Aquarium curator and BCM acting senior manager of marine and zoological services, Siani Tinley, said if it were not for the aquarium and the dedicated staff, these two penguins would not have had the opportunity to pair up.
“Captive animal facilities have a huge role to play in terms of complementing wild animal populations and this is a good example of it,” said Tinley...

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