By Ann Kunz
Except for Tito and Scooby who are currently still moulting, Donatello and all the other the penguins in the colony have completed their annual moults.
Although moulting is not unique to penguins, a penguin moult is aptly named a “catastrophic moult”. Unlike other birds, penguins lose all their feathers within a short time frame which gives them a rather scraggly look.
The animal behaviourists who care for the penguins at uShaka Sea World are able to recognise a penguin who is about to enter a moulting phase by the spike in their appetites. Penguins need to increase their pre-moult body mass by approximately 1kg. During moulting, a penguin remains landbound and therefore is not able to feed.
It takes approximately three weeks for both the adults and juveniles to complete a moult. African Penguins undergo their first moult at 18 months of age and thereafter they undergo an annual moult.
Once penguins complete their moult, they head straight for the water where they divide their time between preening and feeding.
During this vulnerable time when their energy reserves are low, penguins need to carefully balance the amount of energy they spend hunting, with food availability.
Next time you visit uShaka Sea World and see one or more of the penguins looking anything but dashing, just know that a gleaming new waterproof tuxedo is but a week or so away.