Naturalist Mike Dilger accompanies a group of Gentoo penguins as they cross the Atlantic to make a new home in Hull's marine attraction, the Deep.
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Good evening and welcome to Inside missing Good
Good evening and welcome to Inside Out from the Deep here in Hull,
where tonight, we have a special treat or you. We are off inside to
meet five new arrivals who have travelled a long way to be here. I
will give you a clue ` they have two wings and they can't fly.
Good evening and welcome to Inside Out. I'm Toby Foster and in the tank
behind me are five Gentoo penguins. Everybody knows that penguins don't
fly but these have come all the way from Texas to here at the Deep in
Hull. Naturalist Mike Dilger joined them on their 5,000 mile
transatlantic journey. When it comes to fish, the Deep
pretty much have it covered, with 300 different species and over 3,500
individuals, including everyone's favourite, the shark. But when the
aquarium opened in 2002, there were hopes to include a bird exhibit. But
they ran out of money. And now, in 2014, it is time to bring on the
birds. Penguins, to be precise. Gentoo
penguins, one of the true Antarctic species. It is incredible the size
of fish they can actually swallow whole. It is a long journey as the
aquarium team learn how to care for these charismatic birds. It has been
really useful and incredibly great fun. They have to race against both
time and a tight budget to get the enclosure ready. Most of the project
has gone really well but this balcony has been a bit of a
nightmare. Nothing is ever easy, is it? And then transport the penguins
safely all the way from Texas. One two, three, four, five. Lid on?
Yes. Let's go. Bye, guys. Be good. This is going to be fantastic,
everybody loves penguins. This is the Gentoo penguin in its
natural habitat. Antarctic islands like the Falklands and South
Georgia, where they have adapted to very cold temperatures.
I want to find out how to make a bird like this feel at home in the
north of England. Katy Duke is the Deep's Chief Curator and she is in
charge of Project Penguin. I am off to meet her at the aquarium's coral
nursery bed. Katie, a toothbrush, corals. You're
going to have to explain. I'm afraid you have to do a bit of cleaning
work for us. What we need to do is clean the algae off around the bases
of the colonies, so they can continue to grow. It strikes me that
you guys are phenomenally experienced with coral, know an
enormous amount about fish but birds is unknown territory. If you pardon
the pun, you're going in at the deep end. We really are, yes, and this is
something very new to us but really exciting. We're sort of doing our
homework to make sure we get it right, because as you say, it is not
our instant area of expertise. But penguins are just such fantastic
animals, they catch people's imagination. They use the water just
like fish do. They are such amazing birds, really, that it seems to fit
in incredibly well with our story. It is an honorary fish. It is an
honorary fish. And they are not coming from Britain, these Gentoo
penguins. And they are not coming from the Antarctic either. No, they
are coming from a captive bred population in Texas. The penguins
will come over by plane, so they will fly, which will be interesting.
But they will come in a crate, so they will be put in the hold of an
aeroplane and they will come over on a passenger flight with people sat
above them. There is a huge raft of things that we have to do in order
to get the birds here. It's November and the Deep has got
workers in working on the penguin enclosure. There is a lot riding on
this new exhibit. We have been open, what, 12 years now. Commercially, we
are the most successful millennium project in the country. But you
always, as a boss, worry about next year, worry about increased
competition, worry about energy prices going up.
Colin is the man who has been running the Deep from day one.
Exciting but also expensive, to bring them here and build the
enclosure. Yeah, yeah, you can't get a penguin on eBay, you know, they
are not easy to get. We said at the beginning, we are an environmental
charity. If we are going to bring penguins here, we are going to bring
them to the most exciting, suitable site that we can, and that doesn't
come cheap. Dare I ask how expensive it is to sort this out? It is
costing us about 600,000. They are keeping the cost down by designing
and building the penguin enclosure themselves. Bringing in a zoo design
company would double their costs. The builders have their plans and
there is a little help from Colin. I built this model myself. It is not a
big part of my job description, model building, but I was trying to
get across to the staff the kind of vision and the theming and how the
different levels would work. I struggled, to be honest. I tried
drawing pictures and sketches, but people were struggling to understand
that, so I thought the best way is to try and build a three`dimensional
model. To maintain the right temperature
for the Gentoos, this is going to be an indoor exhibit. But with one big
difference. An outdoor balcony. This is going to be a 3.3`metre opening
onto a 4.5`metre`square platform, with a glass partition to overlook
the pond for the penguins. `` to overlook the Humber. I don't know of
any other penguin display in the world where they can go indoors or,
if they fancy going out, they can also do that. They are on the first
floor, so they are quite elevated and they will look down towards the
ferry terminal, down towards the North Sea. They will have the whole
vista of the Humber there. And then from the Humber, they are looking
out over to the South Bank, so they get beautiful views of the sunrise.
I get quite excited looking at this model because, to me, it is not a
model anymore. I can see it in my mind's eye. I can see the penguins
in there, I can see it snowing on them and the ice machine in the
background. This is going to be fantastic. I mean, everyone loves
penguins. With the construction work underway, it is time for curator
Katy Duke to get some hands`on experience with Gentoo penguins. And
for that, she needs to head north of the border.
Of course, Edinburgh Zoo's number`one visitor attraction has to
be the only pandas in the whole of the UK. But Katy has come all the
way here for another black and white animal and, to her mind, it has got
just as much star appeal and attraction as these.
Edinburgh has nearly 70 Gentoos, one of the largest collections in
Europe. Unfortunately, they don't have any spare birds to spend to the
Deep, but they do have six decades of expertise to pass on. So it is
the perfect place for Katy to pick up some tips.
It is like tiptoeing through the tulips, isn't it?
We are both here to meet the man who looks after the zoo's bird
collection. Katy, Colin, it really is feeding
time at the zoo. I understand you have never fed a penguin before. I
haven't, this is very exciting for me. We have spent two and a half
years planning our penguin exhibit, this is the first time I'm going to
have the chance to feed one. So a big moment for me. I think we should
let her feed a Gentoo. What is the technique? We take our fish. You
just want to hold it, just about here, so you can use your thumb to
control the head. Want to keep the head fairly firm so you have control
of the fish as it goes in. And basically, go straight to the back
of the mouth. And it's gone! So you tilt it to one side, that is it,
straight down. How was that for you? Down in seconds. That is brilliant,
amazing. Can I have a go? Certainly, we'll find another bird
for you. This one here. So, again, same technique. Straight there. It
is like being ever so gently mugged. Beautiful. Wonderful. I imagine you
find that they are quite individual. Yes, you will have a colony of, you
know, 110 penguins here, but our staff will know each one and they
can even tell sometimes from a distance, without seeing the band,
just from its gait and the way it behaves, which bird it is. So the
staff know the penguins very well. So you get shy ones, extrovert ones,
greedy ones... Aggressive ones. I think the aggressive one is nibbling
away at my boot. Let's have another feed, shall we?
Do you have to feed each penguin individually? It's not like throwing
the food in with other animals. We hand feed all the birds here and
that means we get to see every bird every day, so we can pick up on
signs of illness much more quickly than we would if we were just
chucking stuff into the pool. We know that each bird is getting the
correct amount of diet. Nobody is not getting enough, nobody is
getting too much. We can monitor how much the birds are getting. It is
fantastic. It is my first experience feeding the Gentoos and they are
just unbelievable. They are so inquisitive, they come directly up
to you. It is actually quite easy for you to get the food in, once
they have got it into their beak. It is incredible the size of fish they
can actually swallow whole. It has been really useful and incredibly
great fun. They are a challenge, they are not an easy species. We are
one of the few zoos in the world that regularly breeds Gentoos. They
do take a lot of looking after, you have to get the diet right.
The Gentoos might look awkward on land but underwater, their flippers
and torpedo shape make perfect sense. They are faster than any
other diving bird, reaching speeds of up to 22 mph. So fast and noisy.
In the middle of breeding season, when we have around about 100 birds
vocalising, it is a very, very noisy place to work, so colonies are
tremendously noisy places. Penguins can pick out their partners and
individual birds. Each penguin call is unique, as unique as a human's
fingerprint and these animals have the amazing ability to select each
other out of these thousands of birds.
They are active, they are in the pool, out the pool, they are always
doing something. There is always something going on here. It is like
a soap opera played out every single day in this enclosure. They are
always fascinating to watch. So courtesy of Edinburgh Zoo, Katy
has learned a whole lot about the wonderful Gentoo penguin today. But
before they arrive in Hull, she has still got to complete a mountain of
paperwork. Will the enclosure be built on time? Then she has got to
go all the way to Texas to bring them back. Before we see a spectacle
like this, she's going to have a lot of work on her hands, isn't she?
It is now late December and the building work is in full swing. It
is a little over eight weeks before the penguins arrive. Inside, all the
work is running to schedule. But Colin penguin balcony, which will
give the Gentoos a view across the Humber, is quite a different story.
Most of the project has gone quite well, but this balcony has been a
bit of a nightmare. And before we can start the whole importation
process, we need to get a quarantine certificate. For that, it's got to
be airtight. The balcony's's got to be in and the balcony was due to go
on a couple of weeks ago. And literally on the day it was due to
go in, we had all the floods and gales. The gales brought the roof of
the steel fabricators down from the roof, so they were just trying to
get themselves sorted out and it is only now we have been able to do
it, really. Nothing is ever easy, is it? And as Colin chats to the
builders, it becomes clear that there could be more delays. We have
got gales forecast for tomorrow. 80 mph winds. Won't get done anyway,
will it? No. Then you guys close down for Christmas? Friday. For how
long? Two weeks. Which means if it isn't done today, it isn't done
until January. Which is too late for us to do any of the things we have
to do. It is going up. Two tonnes of
high`grade steel has to be carefully manoeuvred into position. Few
nerves. Think of all the paperwork if they had the building with it.
They look like they know what they are doing. I'll be glad when it's
in, to be honest, now. They are going to have to be clinically obese
penguins for that to be any problem, aren't they? It is really over
engineered. It is quite close to the glass, I'm glad it is not windy up
there. So today is the last day. After today, we would have problems.
Yes, it's been a bit of a nightmare to be honest, for the sake of the
penguins getting this lovely view. I hope they appreciate it. It needs to
come around. Whoa. Looks OK, that. After the
careful lifting, for those few final inches, it is down to pushing power
and a bit of brute force. It's taken hours, but finally the
builders and Colin are happy. Somebody once said to me there is a
thin line between a vision and an hallucination. I don't regret it
now, though. I think it will be a superb attraction and I think the
fact that people will be able to come knowing that the penguins, for
the first time in their life, actually, will be able to feel the
wind in their face and see the sea and get some ultraviolet light from
the sun, I think that will only make people accept penguins in captivity
a bit better. With the Christmas holidays over, it
is time to check in with the team at the Deep. Just three weeks now until
the Gentoos land on British soil. The exhibit is still a building
site, so I need to get suited up with the full protective gear.
Ready for action. Emma, how's it going? Yes, it's
going really well. Just explain what you're doing here. This is going to
be a rock pool here. Rock, freshwater supply trickling
throughout the day. That way is a water slide, hopefully the penguins
will play on it throughout the day. All made out of polystyrene. I am
your glamorous assistant today, I shall get going.
The polystyrene forms the shapes of rocks and icebergs. It then needs to
be coated and sealed for an authentic and Antarctic look. Can
you not use anything like real rocks? Well, first off, we are a
floor up, on the first floor of the building, so we have a weight issue
here. Not in terms of a problem, but we don't want to add too much extra
weight. But also, we are going for a nice smooth finish in terms of the
rocks and the ice and so on, so it makes it very practical, very
user`friendly for us, very easy on the penguins' feet. So there is a
variety of reasons why everything is, in a way, artificial and made
look real. You have done a lot and it looks like it is coming together
but I will say again, there is less than a month to go. Yes, thank you
for that, yes. Not worried? A little bit worried. No, we will get there.
As you can see, everybody is working about 16 hours a day at the moment
and I think that'll be the case between now and when the penguins
arrive. For the next three weeks, the team work 24/7 to get the job
done. But it is still not finished and Katy has to leave for the United
States to collect the Gentoos. She can only hope it will be ready in
time. It is just two days now until the
penguins begin their flight across the Atlantic. I have travelled to
join Katy in the US to see how it goes. This is Galveston, Texas.
Around 5,000 miles from Hull. And where the penguins destined for the
Deep have been bred. Now, this might seem like a long way to come. But
then again, Gentoos are difficult penguins to get hold of.
The aquarium in Galveston answered the call when the Deep went on an
international search for penguins. We got contacted by Katy about eight
months ago now asking if we would consider sending them some penguins.
They were having some difficulties getting them out of the UK or out of
the EU and we had some birds. We did a little investigating to make sure
they were a good facility and they could take care of the birds really
well. I got to visit in September and meet the staff and see the
exhibit and meet everyone there and that sealed the deal for us, it is a
great facility and we had the birds to send and so we were willing to do
so. Moody Gardens are supplying ten Gentoos in total. But to start
with, just five will make the transatlantic trip.
It's starting to get very real now, isn't it? It is very, very real now
because we are surrounded by penguins. Do you know which penguins
that you are going to take? The five that we are taking are named Fiona,
then we have the four Mutant Ninja Turtles and so we have got Raphael,
Michelangelo, Leonardo and who am I missing? Donatello. Donatello. So,
yeah, they are amongst us. I am not completely good on ID yet but I am
more up on which birds are which. Diane, you know these penguins. Can
you spot a few of the ones that are going to come back with us? Over
there is Donatello. One is over here. They are around. We have
spotted one that we are definitely taking.
Katy has decided the Gentoos need more English`sounding names if they
are to feel at home at the Deep. So from now on, they are Mike, Don,
Rafa and Leo. Fiona? Well, she is still Fiona. Now we need to get them
to Hull. It's the morning of the big day. The
penguins are about to begin their 5,000 mile journey. The first job is
to separate Fiona, Mike, Rafa, Don and Leo from the rest of the birds.
But Leo is determined to take a final swim.
It's a bit of a struggle. But he safely behind bars. ``he is.
Well done. I'm nervous, you know? It's a big deal for us. It is a big
deal for the birds as well. Our five Gentoos are already segregated.
That's right, they are already in a separate room so they are ready to
load whenever we want to do that. They're not getting any food,
though? They won't get any food this morning, no. We basically go for a
period of fasting for the penguins before they travel because if they
have full stomachs, it can be very uncomfortable. So they won't get any
food now until they reach the UK. The Gentoos have to watch and wait
as the other birds are fed. And Katy makes a new friend. Penguins can go
without food for around two weeks. A couple of the five might look a bit
scruffy but that is because they are still moulting. It is a little scary
to let them go into their cargo hold without us, but we have prepared
well and I think they will do just fine along transport. Hopefully they
will sleep on the way. Some glow sticks are the finishing touch for
the transport as the Gentoos are afraid of the dark. Now it is just a
small matter of getting the reluctant penguins into the box.
The start of a very, very long journey.
Which one's this? I can't tell. That is Raphael. Raphael, marvellous.
Three down, two to go. It has taken months of planning but
in a matter of minutes, all the penguins are packed up and ready to
leave. One, two, three, four, five. Lid on?
Yeah, good job. Let's go. It would be good to say goodbye. Bye, guys,
be good. The penguin road trip starts on a
pallet loader. And then on to a refrigerated lorry, destined for the
cargo park at Houston airport. The US Fish Wildlife Service has
to endorse the shipment. That they are not cite easy animals, they are
not endangered species and we are good to send. ``diseased animals. So
they just endorsed it so as far as Fish Wildlife are concerned, we
are good to go. Now the airline take responsibility for the penguins and
they will put them into the hold of the plane. We won't see them until
we arrive at the UK at the animal reception centre in Heathrow. I hope
they are going to be OK. It is dark by the time loading
starts and the glow sticks are doing their job. Ahead of the Gentoos, an
eight`hour transatlantic flight, leaving behind their home in Texas.
Throughout the flight, the cargo hold is kept at a steady six degrees
so the birds don't overheat. But there is no way of checking how they
are doing until the plane lands. PILOT: Welcome to London Heathrow,
where the local time is coming up to two minutes to 12.
This is it, the moment of truth. In that van are five Gentoo penguins.
Hopefully, healthy. Like any animal imported through Heathrow, the
Gentoos have to be inspected at the inspection centre. ``reception. How
are they doing? Hopefully good, hopefully good, having never
transported penguins before. I see penguins. They are all standing up.
They are all quite inquisitive. There are lots of feathers and poo
in the bottom. They do look really, really healthy.
They are just putting in the scanner to see if they can read their
microchips. It is matching the bird with the paperwork. It is matching
the bird with the paperwork, exactly. I am really glad that the
birds look OK and it appears everything is going to go smoothly
and we are on the road to Hull. And that means packing up the
penguins again for the final leg of this mammoth journey. But as the
birds are being loaded, one of them starts to give Katy some concern.
Fiona is panting a little bit. As a precaution, a vet is put on stand`by
in Hull. The next time we take the lid off, it'll be at the Deep. It
will. Not long now, little fellas. That is it, all the paperwork done.
They are going up to Hull. It is a fantastic turnout at the
Deep. One slight problem is the container is too big for the lifts,
so we are going to have to lift out one penguin at a time, put them into
these dustbins and take them to the new enclosure. So one last glitch,
but hopefully, they will be in soon. They decide to leave Fiona until
last. She doesn't look any worse, but the vet does need to check her
over. But first, to avoid the boys getting stressed in their buckets,
it is time to let them have a look at their new home.
Oh, that's gorgeous. Honestly, it looks like the Antarctic over there.
Just wandering around the icebergs. You can be crabby, it's OK. With
Don, Leo, Mike and Rafa safe and sound, attention turns to Fiona, who
by now is looking really distressed. She looks a little rough right now,
she has just got a feather stuck up in her eye, like we would have if we
had an eyelash. So the vet is going to get some forceps to pull it out.
Mark the vet has examined Fiona and is happy there is nothing more
serious to worry about. But now the tricky operation of removing that
feather. That is it. Fiona instantly looks happier and can finally join
the rest of the Gentoos. It feels like it's been quite a long
journey, but we are here now and I think the whole team are just in awe
now, just watching these little fellas running around, which is kind
of magical, really. It's lovely. But there's still one job left before
the night is over. Dinner. And any lingering worries about Fiona are
quickly dispelled when she is the first to take a fish.
Bingo. Five penguins who have travelled
5,000 miles. A lot of people have put a huge
amount of effort getting these penguins to Hull. It has been a long
time in the planning and preparation but you have to say, seeing them
explore their new home, it was worth it.
Well, that's all for tonight from here at the Deep in Hull ` and
indeed for this series of Inside Out. We'll be back in the autumn. In
the meantime, it's good night from me and it's good night from them.
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Naturalist Mike Dilger travels from Hull to Texas to accompany a group of young Gentoo penguins making the trip across the Atlantic to make a new home in Hull's marine attraction the Deep.