Penguin Rehab

VD’s Curious Aversion to Vowels and Other Sensible Language

Within less than a week of working with penguins, my already-flimsy street cred had dwindled considerably. The evidence:

Being awake past 9 pm was “staying up late.”

A pair of leopard-print crocs made their way onto my my wish list (So. Much. Want).

But as I said, things got better. I got to work in the CRU (chick rearing unit) not long after arriving, thanks to a short-staffing issue and my diligent poop cleaning (I’m also inconveniently small so it’s possible they wanted me to be less of a nuisance, but for the record let’s just say I did a good job. I was also always super punctual, so there was that, too). And what exactly was this big step up? Well, for me it meant I went from the disastrously-dirty mats of big adults to the gently-soiled dishes and laundry in the nursery. It was quieter, cleaner, and there’s baby bird cuteness everywhere.

When I was there, they were trying very hard to raise an endangered bank cormorant chick (something that had never before been done) and succeeded. I like to think my overly-meticulous scrubbing of formula blenders played a small part in that achievement.

In general, chicks are a dangerous lot to look after. They’re so cuddly and ready to bond it takes a lot of wits to ignore them, but that’s the way of chick rearing. Feed, medicate, leave them alone. If they become attached to humans, they can’t be released into the wild, and then, well, you’ll soon have another severely-proud, profusely-pooping adult to look after until its dying day.  The little buggers also have no immune systems, so that means meticulous cleaning regimes, hospital scrubs and strong disinfectants. So strong, it seems, that it’s even killed any semblance of a sensible name along with the bacteria.

Maybe it’s the germs; maybe it’s the fear a chick might randomly bond with a nice-sounding washing powder, but the veterinary disinfectants we used had names that…well, made no sense at all, quite frankly. I had a long time to contemplate this in the many hours of dish washing.

Here’s a list of a few of the cleaning agents and their possible new names.


Description: Antiseptic liquid soap or hand gel (two products)

Nickname: soap

Possible new name: none

Reason: Because soap is a decent name


Description: Biofilm remover

Nickname: F919

Possible new name: squirty soap

Reason: Because the concentrate squirts up into the cap when measured.


Description: Veterinary disinfectant/cleanser

Nickname: Step 1

Possible new name: finger tingler

Reason: Because after having hands submerged in this for hours, the fingers tingled.


Description: Veterinary disinfectant

Nickname: Step 2

Possible new name: squeaky raindrops

Reason: Because it looks like rain when you spray it (for use in step 5 of the poop post), and it makes everything squeaky clean.

No name (unknown)

Description: Washing powder

Nickname: none

Possible name: flower dust

Reason: Because it’s so super nice-smelling, you can almost imagine a flower springing from all the poop-covered towels. Almost.


Description: Chlorine detergent

Nickname: none

Possible new name: soul-suckers

Reason: Okay, so this one isn’t technically a vowel-less mess, but I feel the name does not adequately describe the nose-burning, lung-collapsing potency of the product. Do. Not. Inhale. Don’t even look in its direction when you’re pouring, or there will be consequences. Bad ones.

Well, that about rounds up the cleaning agents. Here are the edits:


First wash your hands with soap and spray your surroundings with squeaky raindrops. Submerge the blender in squirty soap for five minutes and follow with a wash in finger-tingler. Dry with a towel that has been laundered with four soul-suckers and a scoop of flower dust.

So much better, don’t you think?

But let’s not beat around the bush. Chicks have to come from somewhere, and yes, though we could get pedantic about whether the egg or the penguin came first, now that the cycle is going we know it involves both eggs and penguins. And where there are eggs and penguins, there is also love… and morning sex.

(P.S. The chick in the photo above is a Hartlaub’s gull, but more on those later.)