Calgary Zoo veterinarians employed a crafty solution to save a king penguin chick that prematurely hatched earlier this month.

Over the August long weekend Calgary Zoo employees discovered broken pieces of a shell on the beach of the Penguin Plunge enclosure, which was a bad sign for a very special chick that was due to be born on August 11th. 

“A shell is a very specific, very particular thing to allow moisture to go in and out correctly. We sprung to action, the vets were very artsy and crafty and we found a piece of shell from a previous year from a Humboldt penguin,” said Dr. Malu Celli, curator with the Calgary Zoo.

The reclaimed piece of shell was used to create a temporary patch and the egg was placed in an electronic incubator.

Zookeepers, curators, veterinarians and even the security team worked around the clock over the remainder of the weekend to ensure the egg was kept warm, moist, clean and ultimately safe.

A few rough days later, the chick was finally ready to emerge and on August 7th, the king penguin chick fully hatched.  The yet-to-be named chick has now been introduced to the colony under the care of its foster mom, Diana.  

Dr. Celli says that she and her colleagues are rooting for the little chick, “Now we’re just leaving it up to mom and chick to bond, she’s been feeding it, she’s been keeping it warm, she's defending it, she’s a single mom right now, so she’s defending it a lot against the other birds that are curious.”  

The chick's biological parents are 27-year-old Antoinette and her 21-year-old mate Louis.  The pair is considered to be founders to the North American king penguin population as they have no relatives in the zoo population and have never before successfully hatched a chick.

Dr. Celli says that they’ve been trying to breed this geriatric couple since they moved from Montreal. “They got moved specifically so we could give them a last chance to breed while the bio-dome where they came from was under renovation. They’ve laid eggs before and have been unsuccessful, so that's why we decided to put it under a foster mom to give it the best chance."

Although the chick is currently looking good, Dr. Celli says it still has a ways to go, “It’s still not out of the woods yet, we hope that this little chick, who’s had a difficult start, is going to do well.” 

Dr. Celli wants everyone to root along with her and the Calgary Zoo; mom and chick are in plain view for all to see.  

“The chick is very, very little but if you’re in the right place at the right time when mom lifts her brooding patch you might be able to see a little head peeking out.”

For more on the Penguin Plunge and visitor hours, visit the website.