It's Toenail Trimming Time for Ed the Fiordland Penguin
He's one of the most charismatic animals at Melbourne Zoo, and now Ed the Fiordland penguin can also lay claim to being one of its quickest learners.
Keepers have been training Ed to voluntarily participate in his own healthcare, with the New Zealand-born marine bird keen to present his feet for a very important toenail trim.
Melbourne Zoo Wild Sea keeper Alexis Hurwitz said Ed's toenails need to be trimmed regularly so they don't become overgrown and curl up into skin, which would cause mobility problems.
In the wild, a Fiordland penguin’s search for food sees them traverse rocky coastlines and rugged terrain, which naturally wears down their toenails.
"Penguins use their toes and their feet to jump and hang on to some surfaces," Ms Hurwitz said.
"Fiordland penguins jump quite a bit, so if their toenails get too long and they don’t have the ability to jump it would really impact their welfare.”
Ms Hurwitz said it only took Ed a couple of weeks and some of his favourite fish foods to gain confidence in jumping onto a stand to present his toes for inspection and a nail trim.
"Ed’s reaction to his toenail clipping is extremely positive. He knows that he is getting positive reinforcement. For him it is fish. I get to trim his toenails and he associates it as a nice, positive thing.
"Ed responded very quickly to this training and is a very curious and resilient animal in general.”
Ed and his female Fiordland penguin Zoo companion, Kim, share a remarkable story.
They were both rescued by Melbourne Zoo's Marine Response Unit in 2018 after being found injured and exhausted at beaches on the Mornington Peninsula. The pair received extensive veterinary care and rehabilitation at the Zoo, and now live in the Wild Sea precinct as their injuries mean they can't be safely released back into the wild.
Fiordland penguins are classified at Vulnerable in the wild by the International Union for Conservation of Nature's Red List. They only breed in New Zealand and can swim thousands of kilometres in search of food, which is why they are sometimes found in Victorian waters. Wild populations are threatened by human activity and development in their habitats.
While Melbourne Zoo is temporarily closed to members and visitors, animal lovers at home can stay connected with the Zoo's animals – including the penguins - through the Zoos Victoria live stream cameras at www.zoo.org.au/animals-at-home