Rockhopper reunited with her parents

Rehabilitated: Miss Harold Custard

Miss Harold Custard has been reunited with her colony after being successfully hatched and hand-reared.

Miss Harold Custard is a juvenile northern rockhopper penguin.

Her egg was laid by Roxy and Grommet at the Two Oceans Aquarium, but was brought to the Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds (SANCCOB), in Rietvlei, because the pair are still inexperienced penguin parents.

Miss Harold Custard weighed just 69g when she hatched in Sanccob’s chick-rearing unit, in September last year, and she has grown into a healthy juvenile. There’s an interesting story behind her name, said Romy Klusener, the chick-rearing unit’s supervisor.

“We initially thought it was a male, and, due to her discerning character, the name Harold seemed appropriate. As a chick, the tip of her beak was a custard-yellow, which gave the impression that she had dipped her beak in custard.

As such, the word ‘custard’ was added to her name. After doing the blood tests to determine her sex, it was confirmed that she was, in fact, a female rockhopper.”

After nearly four months of care, Miss Custard was reunited with Roxy and Grommet at the aquarium’s penguin exhibit on Friday January 13.

The exhibit is home to 10 of the endangered northern rockhoppers, all of which were rescued from southern Cape beaches and rehabilitated at Sanccob.

These penguins can’t be returned to the wild because there’s the threat they could carry diseases endemic to South African seabirds back to their native colonies.

“We were sad to bid farewell to Miss Custard but glad that we could ensure that she had the best chance of survival,” said Ms Klusener.

Northern rockhopper (eudyptes moseleyi) penguins are found in the South Atlantic and Indian oceans. Most are found on Gough Island and the Tristan da Cunha archipelago.

The species is classified as endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and it’s estimated that fewer than 240 000 breeding pairs remain in the wild today.

Rockhopper penguins are the smallest of the crested penguin species. They live on rocky, inaccessible coasts. Due to their incredible jumping ability, they are recognised as “mountaineers” among penguins.