This is a very special yellow-eyed penguin. Stitches is one of 'ours' from the 2013/14 season and fledged naturally and survived just fine. But when it came to moulting in February 2015 she was too skinny so she got a wee helping hand from us.
It wasn't long before she needed help again: in April 2015 she showed us in our colony with a nasty gash on her left thigh and it needed stitching. So we took her off to the St Kilda vets here in Dunedin where Tony and his team stitched her up beautifully - see first photo. The feathers are always quite damaged around a wound like that. After four weeks in rehab, she seemed to have healed nicely and off she went.
It did not go to plan: a month later we found her in the colony weighing a meagre 3.2kg so back into rehab for a 3 week top-up she went. We were super surprised in a good way to see how well her feathers now covered up her scar - see 2nd photo.
Stitches did not require our assistance again for the next moult and was quite camera-shy but you can see how beautiful she was earlier this year in March when she had just finished moulting. Where her nasty wound was is just a little feather dimple!
Stitches was 2 years old last year but decided not to breed - not surprising with the sort of year she has had. But this year she laid 2 beautiful eggs and they are both fertile!
We believe that without our presence in the colony we would not have found her starving as a juvenile, bleeding with her wound and starving again - post-traumatic-stress maybe? She is lucky like a cat - 3 lives down, and hopefully many chicks to raise!