Plucky penguin becomes a “guide-bird” for his cataract stricken friend

A three-year-old Penguin from Surrey has taken on the role of 'guide-bird' for a cataract-afflicted companion, creating an extraordinary friendship.

'Penguin,' a hand-reared African Penguin from Birdworld—the largest bird park in the UK—swiftly bonded with 'Squid,' a fellow three-year-old African penguin who had developed cataracts—a debilitating condition that clouds the lens of the eye and impairs vision.

From their early days as adolescent chicks, the close-knit duo amazed Birdworld's keepers with their remarkable relationship. Squid, often disoriented during busy feeding times, relies on Penguin's unwavering calmness. By standing close to the keepers, Penguin inadvertently became Squid's beacon, guiding her around the enclosure and acting as her “eyes.”

Polly Branham, Living Collections Manager at Birdworld, said: “The intuitive behaviour observed between Penguin and Squid has revealed a remarkable level of empathy and understanding, showcasing the profound connections that can form within the animal kingdom.”

Penguin's journey began during the pandemic, facing an unknown illness that required hands-on care from Birdworld’s dedicated team. This challenging start made him exceptionally timid, heavily dependent on the dedication and expertise of his keepers.

Miraculously, he overcame these hurdles, growing stronger and eventually integrating with the colony at Penguin Beach, a dynamic recreation of their coastal home, complete with some of the other wonderful birds they would naturally share their life with.

When Squid was hatched, she displayed the typical lively and vocal traits of a penguin chick, despite developing cataracts at just six weeks old, — a unique occurrence within her otherwise healthy family,” said Polly. “In the penguin community, where social bonds and mutual tolerance are crucial, Squid's being partially sighted posed a manageable challenge, as long as she could engage in natural behaviours.

Plucky penguin becomes a “guide-bird” for his cataract stricken friend

Having been nurtured within the colony, Squid honed her skills alongside her peers. As she ventured from the nest, Penguin, too, was embracing his newfound strength on the beach, learning the essence of being a penguin. Their simultaneous journeys of discovery led to a remarkable relationship, with Squid's boldness perfectly complemented by Penguin's patience, making them an inseparable and inspiring duo.

“We didn’t expect Penguin and Squid to form such a close bond, and it's evident that Penguin's resilience significantly influenced Squid's self-assurance,” added Senior Penguin Keeper, Natalie Marshall.

Birdworld is set to celebrate Penguin Week during the February half-term (February 12-18) in which visitors can look forward to half-price penguin feeding experiences and exclusive one-on-one feeding sessions.

Home to over 150 bird species, the park features two dedicated penguin habitats: Penguin Island and Penguin Beach, the latter of which can be found at Seashore Walk and is home to Squid and Penguin.

For media enquiries please email Natalie


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