Alex O'Brien


Fri, 6 Feb, 2015

Phillip Island’s 21-year-old penguin recovering well from life-saving surgery

Phillip Island’s 21-year-old penguin recovering well from life-saving surgery

Named “Pauley”, this little penguin is recovering well from life-saving surgery after it was found underweight and distressed on a beach at Portsea.

Despite the average lifespan of fairy penguins to be around seven years of age, Pauley has defied the odds to make it to 21.

Michelle Thomas from the Animalia shelter at Frankston said it was unusual for a penguin of his type to have survived so long in the wild.

“He must just be a very, very smart penguin because he should by all means have been in the stomach of a shark or a seal by this time,” she told the ABC. “It's quite remarkable to see a penguin get to that age.”

Ms Thomas operated on poor Pauley’s damaged beak on Tuesday and said following the op: “He was looking quite normal when he first came in and as soon as I opened his beak to give him his fluids, I realised what the problem was. That's when we discovered he had a massive great break in the beak.” 

Prior to Pauley’s operation, this break in his beak was stopping him from fishing.

“The problem was that he hadn't been able to fish sufficiently with the beak the way he was and he had been losing weight,” she said.

“He came in at about 754 grams, and he should've been around about a kilogram.

So he didn't have enough energy to be able to catch the fish, or to be able to swim fast enough to catch them.”

Thankfully, since the operation, Pauley has been quickly regaining his appetite.

“[My husband] was able to give him two fish and some pain killers, then he had another four fish two hours after that, then last night he had another six fish. He's doing pretty well, we're pretty happy with that.” 

She said Pauley responded well to the operation and would be able to feed more effectively when he was returned to the wild. 

“All we need to do is make sure that he is waterproof and that he's swimming again. But because he’s 21 years old, a couple of months in care for a bird like that is no big deal,” Ms Thomas said.

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