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12 July 2013

After more than two weeks of expert care, the Little Penguin brought to the Zoo with oiled feathers is now back in the wild.

The Penguin was found with oil-soaked feathers at Middle Park Beach on June 23. The bird’s characteristic colouration was concealed by the heavy coating.

The Zoo’s Veterinary team gave it several special oil removal baths over the next few days.

Senior Veterinarian Dr. Helen McCracken explains that the bird also needed treatment for the digestive upset caused by ingesting oil when it had tried unsuccessfully to clean its feathers.

Once the oil was removed, the Penguin needed time to preen its feathers back into waterproof condition. 

It swam daily in the special rehabilitation pool set up for seabirds and seals needing specialist veterinary care before returning to the wild.

Keepers coaxed the patient into eating the popular Penguin treat of pilchards, and it regained the weight it had lost initially.

The last stop in the Penguin’s stay at Melbourne Zoo was a visit to the surgery, where Dr. McCracken implanted it with a microchip, so that it can be identified in future if it comes into human care again.

Vet Department Keeper Jody Van Gulik and Wild Sea Keeper Justin Valentine transported the Penguin Petpack to St. Kilda, where they released it near the breakwater where the local Penguin colony nests.

At first the Penguin seemed reluctant to walk out of the Petpack, and once out he turned back to look at the Keepers.

Keeper Jody thought that the Penguin might have been expecting him to provide another snack of pilchards, so he encouraged the rehabilitated bird towards the water to find its lunch for itself!

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