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Conservation

Saving Spruce

Saving Spruce

Looking after penguins isn’t all flippery fun and smelly fish – when baby Humboldt chick Spruce stopped gaining weight, Weymouth SEA LIFE staff had to jump into action…

When Spruce was born, nobody was more delighted than his proud parents, Laurel and Cedar – and SEA LIFE’s Fiona Smith. “Penguin chicks turn the cute factor up to 11,” she said. “They’re just adorable.”

Fiona’s joy soon turned to concern, however, when it became clear that Laurel and Cedar couldn’t give Spruce the feeding and attention that baby Humboldt penguins need. “We were particularly worried because Humboldts are a vulnerable species, whose numbers are falling in their native Chile and Peru,” said Fiona. “That makes breeding new Humboldts a key priority. As Laurel and Cedar are first-time parents, Spruce’s genes are different to our other captive-born Humboldts, making him a perfect breeding partner in the future.”

There was no time to lose, so Fiona and her team moved Spruce to his own Special Care Baby Unit. There, they lovingly fed him through a special tube to help him grow. “It was touch and go in the beginning,” said Fiona, “but with careful monitoring and a bit of coaching he was soon out of danger and starting to pile on weight.”

After about 10 weeks’ TLC, Spruce was big and strong enough to be reunited with Laurel and Cedar and the rest of the Humboldt colony. “He’s now the picture of penguin health – it’s so rewarding to help such a beautiful creature. I wouldn’t swap this job for anything!”

March 2017

Merlin Entertainment