Three-week old Pingu, an African Penguin was born with a slight disadvantage. His brother was a bit of a bully, who ate all of Pingu's fish. At first, the Zookeepers at the Living Coasts in Torquay, Devon, ignored the problem, thinking the siblings would be able to sort things out. However, one day when Pingu, who was growing increasingly weak day after day, fell into the water, they knew something had to be done.
They decided to hand-raise Pingu for a few months, until he was big enough to deal with the competition and transferred him to a separate area. However, here they encountered another problem - Pingu was really lonely and waddled around forlornly all day.
That was until someone came up with the brilliant idea of getting a stuffed penguin toy to keep Pingu company. Pingu, who lives in a cozy den made from foam matting and towels, immediately adopted his surrogate silent sibling and cuddles up to him all the time.
Pingu, who now eats up to six meals a day, is thriving under the foster care of six mothers and of course his buddy - the stuffed penguin. Pingu is quiet, but inquisitive and loves warm baths and preening its feathers.
African Penguins, also known as Black-footed Penguins are native to the South-West Coast of Africa. They are about the size of chicks when they are born, but grow rapidly, attaining their full size in about eight weeks. The chicks lose their soft gray feathers when they get to between 3 - 4 months of age.
With less then 10% of their original population of 1.5 million left in the wild, these penguins are amongst the top of the list of endangered animals. The biggest threat to them used to be people stealing the eggs for food. However, now the biggest threat is the destruction of their natural habitat, attributed to over-fishing and oil spills.
Sources: Dailymail.co.uk, telegraph.co.uk, sanccob.co.za