By Shannon Colbert, social media specialist
In May, we were so happy to see the hatching of the year’s first macaroni chick. The new little bird put big smiles on the faces of keepers, staff and volunteers whenever it was seen.
However, it was clear early on that the chick was facing some challenges. Keepers did everything they could to sustain it and give it the best chance of survival. Unfortunately, I am deeply saddened to have learned about the loss of the little chick yesterday afternoon.
Since joining the Aquarium team earlier this year, I have been continually amazed by the amount of care and compassion given to every aquarium animal by our incredible staff and volunteers. Each creature is given exceptional handling by trained professionals who hold the well-being of our animals at the highest priority. I’ve seen staff come in early and stay extra late to make sure the animals they care for live the happiest and healthiest lives possible. You can imagine then, how sad it can be when any animal is lost.
The penguin nesting season that led to this little bird’s hatching was one of my first blog assignments. I have followed the season watching husbandry staff caring for potential penguin parents and shared in their delight when this year’s first chick began breaking out of the egg. As part of their routine, once baby penguins arrive, keepers follow a daily weight chart to monitor the growth of each chick. Just a few days after hatching, there was concern that this one was not gaining weight as quickly and consistently as it should. Soon after that, keepers began supplemental feedings to help the chick put on the weight it needed to survive. Unfortunately, our concerns were well founded. Yesterday, after a week of intensive treatment, there was nothing more that could be done to save the chick.
As with every case like this, our veterinarian performed a thorough post-mortem examination to try and determine the reason for its passing. Initial results indicate that the baby may have been experiencing difficulty due to some congenital abnormalities associated with its circulatory system. The initial gross examination results will be followed up by a microscopic examination from a pathology laboratory.
Today, I am comforted to know that all of our animals are in the very best hands, and I am hopeful for the rest of the year’s eggs yet to hatch in Penguins’ Rock. As our husbandry staff (really, all of our staff) would confirm, caring for and working around living things often comes with great rewards. But on days like this one, it can also be exceptionally heartbreaking.