The P-P-Penguin Whisperer

P-p-pictures by Tony Bartholomew
P-p-pictures by Tony Bartholomew

Making fish stew six times a day is not something many new fathers have to contend with.

But that was just one of the hurdles faced by a Scarborough man with a couple of unusual young ones.

When baby Humboldt penguins Rico and Skipper were rejected by their parents Todd German stepped in and became their surrogate dad.

The 30-year-old senior aquarist at Scarborough Sea Life Sanctuary has lovingly hand-reared Rico and Skipper since they were five days and one day old respectively.

He fed them a special fish soup six times daily with the aid of a syringe and even took them home with him so he could give them their last feed at 10pm.

When they were aged a couple of months old they lived in a heated unit at the sanctuary, but went for daily walks with Mr German as he made his rounds of the displays.

Now fully fledged, they have joined 18 full-grown Humboldt’s in the Sanctuary’s new Penguin island enclosure and to Mr German’s great relief the older birds have given them a warm reception.

The pair were hatched in December at another UK wildlife centre and were rejected by their parents. Without swift intervention they would have died.

“I was thrilled to be given the chance to bring up Rico and Skipper,” said Mr German.

“It was hard work, and I’m not sure what the neighbours made of their braying calls in the middle of the night, but it has been a hugely rewarding experience.”

Happily for Mr German his girlfriend, Amy McFarlane, is also a Sea Life aquarist and shares his passion for wildlife, so was more tolerant of the lodgers than many partners would have been.

Rico and Skipper weighed a miniscule 67 grams when they were first adopted.

They now weigh in at four kilos.

“They definitely think Todd is their ‘mum’ and until they were introduced to the adults in the new enclosure hadn’t seen or heard another penguin,” added sanctuary boss Richard Dilly.

“We spent £300,000 sprucing up the penguin enclosure and adding a waterfall and special walkthrough trail for visitors.

“Having been hand-reared by Todd, Rico and Skipper have no fear of humans and are likely to give our visitors some incredible close encounters.”