Special pants gives penguin happy feet

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A penguin chick with a bad case of splayed legs is back on happy feet again thanks to his own wardrobe of special designer trousers.

Animal care staff at Scarborough Sea Life Centre discovered the problem when the chick was just three weeks old.

“It’s a common issue with many bird species, and their growth is so rapid it can result in a permanent disability unless treated quickly,” said resident expert Lyndsey Crawford.

“It was a result of some over-zealous parenting by first-time mum and dad Pinky and Kev,” she added. “Basically they sat on him a bit too heavily.”

The youngster has since been having regular fittings of specially tailored, tight fitting trousers made from an elasticated bandage-like material.

“We have also been sitting him in a shallow pot to help keep his legs in the right position and gradually correct his posture as he continued to grow.”

He has stayed with his parents throughout his unusual therapy and they have continued to feed him, unfazed by his extraordinary leg plumage!

Now nine weeks old and taking the occasional glimpse out of the nest box entrance, Lyndsey and her colleagues are thrilled that he has a full-working and perfectly penguin-like waddle.

Though a ‘he’ for the time being, the chick’s gender will not be known for certain until a DNA test is carried out as part of his next full veterinary check.

The other residents of the Sea Life Centre’s Humboldt penguin colony have shown a keen interest in the new arrival each time he has popped his head out.

“They are very social birds, greeting each other every morning and reinforcing the bond between them with regular bill tapping and mutual preening,” said Lyndsey.

“The chick is expected to emerge to meet his extended family properly in about a week’s time.”

He will truly be accepted by his fellow penguins when he is able to take to the water for the first time.

“He won’t be fully initiated until he is able to join them for their underwater formation swims a few weeks after that though,” she added.

Young penguins are unable to swim until their feathers are fully developed and have acquired the oily sheen that keeps them from getting sogged.

“He may have had a wobbly start to life with his legs,” said Lyndsey.

“But we don’t expect any problems with his water wings.”