You may have noticed that Clax, our youngest rockhopper penguin in the Penguin Exhibit, which is brought to you by Old Mutual Finance, is having a bad hair day. Actually, she is about to go into her very first moult and will replace all her current feathers with brand new ones.
Despite her scruffy appearance, she is perfectly healthy and is being monitored by our resident vet.
Clax was born at the Two Oceans Aquarium on 7 October 2014 and was named after Clax Italia, the company that manufactured and installed our acrylic windows in the new exhibit (set to open in 2016) at the very moment that Clax hatched.
Teddy, our oldest rockhopper, will also moult within the next couple of months.
Moulting typically lasts four weeks.
When a bird moults, it replaces its entire set of feathers. Think of it this way: we change our clothes daily, but they only change theirs once a year!
To moult can only be an uncomfortable process.
First, there's the weight gain. When penguins moult, they can't swim because the feathers are not waterproof. Therefore, they can't hunt, so they rely on energy reserves stored up before the moult to survive the re-feathering ordeal.
Imagine: you need to gain an immense amount of weight in preparation for what is to follow – only to have your appetite fade away after that; you do not want to move an inch or eat during moulting; swimming is a no-no as you have no protection against becoming saturated (and rockies in the wild naturally spend about 85% of their lives in the ocean…).
You experience a prickling sensation over every part of your body as the new feathers begin to pin and push out the old to make way…
Penguins self-regulate to determine when they start feeding again, depending on their available energy reserves. Following the moult they might have a few days of continued low appetite, or they might start feeding before the moult is complete.
Moulting is considered finished once the new set of feathers is complete and the bird starts preening again using oil from its preen gland.
Should you visit us any time soon, you need not be concerned about Clax and Teddy’s appearance. It is all happening as it should.