Stork visits Humboldt penguins pair in Mumbai zoo

Mumbai, Jul 7 (IANS): Mr Molt and his mate Flipper, the popular Humboldt penguin pair at Mumbai's Byculla Zoo, will soon be proud parents of a first-ever penguin chick to be born in India.

Flipper, the four-and-half-year old female laid an egg on Thursday at the special chilled Penguin enclosure's nesting area after mating with Mr Molt.

"We shall not interfere with the parenting process in any manner... We expect the egg to hatch within six weeks, or around 40 days," said an excited Zoo official.

Usually Humboldt penguins start mating around the age of three-and-half years and lay a pair of eggs after around six weeks, so zoo officials are optimistic another one (egg) is likely to be laid soon.

Presently, Flipper is incubating and in turns, even Mr Molt, who will turn three on July 21, will join the incubation process before they become parents.

This has come as a morale-booster and refreshing news for the BrihanMumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) which had come under heavy fire for importing the endangered Humboldt penguins from COEX Aquarium, South Korea, in July 2016 at a cost of Rs 2 crore.

The colony brought to Mumbai, included three males, three females and two female babies, belonging to the flightless species found on the chilly coasts of Chile and Peru.

In October 2016, one female named Dory died after a bacterial infection, raising questions about the practicability of keeping these birds in the hot Indian climatic conditions, especially since 2000, they figure on the 'Vulnerable' category in the Red List of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), Switzerland.

The Humboldt penguins, which have a life-span of around 25 years, usually mate in March-April or the short October-November seasons.

The biggest star attractions at Mumbai Veermata Jijabai Bhosale Udyan or Mumbai Zoo, the Humboldt penguins small colony now includes Flipper (oldest female), Mr Molt (youngest male), Donald, Daisy, Popeye, Olive and Bubble, and efforts are underway to get a male to complete the pairs.