• Nadine Clarke

Penguins with an "arrested moult"

African penguins with "arrested moult" plumage

It was a Sunday morning in Mossel Bay when a little penguin came to our centre. But this wasn't your usual little grey or black and white African penguin… No this was a brown, kind of mangey looking penguin.

A different breed?

Carol, our founder and expert, advised us that African Penguins can go through what is called an “arrested moult”. This poor fellow had begun to moult (as part of their annual moult process) but due to perhaps a lack of food, stressful conditions or being hunted the moult stopped before it had completed. So the patchy, brown look was understandable.

So into the centre's rehabilitation process he went. Which quite simply was to give him good quality and mega quantity - fish, rest and relaxation (away from seals and sharks)!.

And we're not kidding when we say mega quantity… These guys are hungry - an instinctive knowing, that to get the moult started again, they need nourishment.

At every feeding session they knew exactly where to get the food and ate with gusto (I have the scars to prove it!) .

Their little bodies over the course of 3 - 4 weeks kind of “unpaused” the moult and began the natural process of moulting. The brown patchy, gave way to the beautiful black and (almost sparkly) white we love about African Penguins. Looked like a totally new penguin and we had to remind ourselves that this good looking guy was our original, brown “arrested moult”!

After a week or so of good feeding to pick up the weight that they lost during their moult, they reach their final stage of rehabilitation.

Then off to the Vet for a clean bill of health and a micro chip. One of my favorite moments is getting the thumbs up from Doc - both an accomplishment for the little guy and for us.

A few days later and we pack our strong, handsome boy into a container for the big release at Fransmanshoek.

We watch him swim away to continue his journey and with a couple of tears, we wish him well as he continues his life as an African Penguin. May he see many years and have many chicks and keep the species alive!

Tara Nicholas,

SAPREC Volunteer since Feb 2018