It’s hard to believe that it’s been exactly a year since the hatching of the Aquarium’s youngest northern rockhopper penguin, Clax. She 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.

Clax, exactly one year ago today

It wasn’t all smooth sailing, and the first three months of Clax’s life were particularly taxing on everyone involved – especially her adoptive parents (and Two Oceans Aquarium penguin keepers) Shanet Rutgers and Sonia Peck.

From our blog post in January:

“Along the journey, Clax contracted pneumonia. Expert advice from SANCCOB was called on, formulas compared, sleep lost and nails bitten to the quick. Our dedicated penguin keepers and vet had to take over, and hours (day and night) were spent weighing, feeding, medically treating, x-raying, nebulising, observing, planning, redesigning the beach area – all to ensure that Clax had the best chance of survival. ”

Watch the video of Clax's first couple of months here.

She was given the “all clear” at the beginning of the year and even started to join the other rockhopper penguins for their daily swim in the Ocean Basket Kelp Forest Exhibit. Now, everything is going well and Clax has settled in to a leisurely beach life on the beach of the Penguin Exhibit, prouldly brought to you by Old Mutual Finance.

Like all proud parents, Shanet and Sonia fondly recall the day that Clax was born.

“With this bird, it was actually a visitor who noticed [it had hatched], not me,” says Shanet.

“Shanet was sat at the beach, remember that?” Sonia interjects. “And a visitor asked Shanet ‘What’s that?’, pointing to this little black thing that looked like a bat-shaped piece of biltong.”

“And then I said, ‘No it’s just a rock …”

“And then Shanet called me on the walkie talkie. ‘Sonia, Sonia, Sonia, would you like to come through to Eco [‘ecosystem’, our name for the Penguin Exhibit]? Roxy and Grommet’s egg has hatched…!”

While it wasn’t an easy journey, raising Clax has been hugely gratifying, say Shanet and Sonia. Not only is it very rare to raise a bird like this in captivity, but Clax’s character has added an interesting dynamic to the rockhopper beach.

Sonia Peck, Clax and Shanet Rutgers. Photo by Ingrid Sinclair

“She’s got Sonia’s personality,” jokes Shanet. “In the beginning she was very curious. When she started discovering the beach she went into all the other nests, in and out.”

“Choosing a husband,” ventures Sonia.

“Hopper was her protector,” says Shanet. “At that time she was very sweet, you know, she would look up and look at everyone and chirp at everyone, she used to allow us to go in and pick her up. As she got older I think she just got annoyed with us picking her up and touching her all the time.”

Sounds like she’s entered her “typical teenager” phase.

“She’s cute,” says Sonia. “We have an understanding. But she’s a bit of a princess.”

Now in the juvenile stage, Clax will only have the full yellow crest of feathers on her head by the time she turns two. And she won’t be choosing a mate just yet.

“No, she’s much too young,” says a slightly paternal Sonia. “She won’t reach sexual maturity for another couple of years.”

That said, it sounds like there may be a bit of a flirtation happening. “She does spend more time in Hopper’s nest, but it’s not official,” smiles Shanet.

As befits parents of surly teenagers, Shanet and Sonia’s words of wisdom for Clax on her birthday are also words of gentle warning.

From Shanet: “I think she can start being more friendly.”

From Sonia: “Don’t bite the hand that feeds you.”

Happy birthday Clax, we love you! Here’s to a wonderful year ahead.

Photo by Ingrid Sinclair

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