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Mon, Nov 20, 2000 - Page 4 News List

Visitors flock to see egg

FLIGHTLESS BIRD A king penguin egg has been attracting massive media coverage and nearly 1.5 million people have gone to the zoo to take a look

STAFF WRITER

Taipei City Zoo's latest attraction, a king penguin egg, is expected to hatch within a week, officials said yesterday.

On the 53rd day of the egg's incubation, the director of the Mucha-based zoo Yang Sheng-hsiung (楊勝雄) said more than 1,420,000 people had seen the egg since Sept. 23.

On weekends and holidays, he said, up to 100,000 people a day were coming to take a look at the developing drama of the hatching egg.

Even before the zoo opened at 9am yesterday, visitors were waiting outside the gates and every train on the Mucha line of the MRT was filled to capacity.

During the day, queues outside the penguin house were up to 400m long.

In addition to creating a stir among penguin fans, the egg has also been the source of some drama in the zoo's penguin community itself.

On Saturday, the father penguin seemed distraught after noticing that his mate displayed rather poor egg-incubation techniques.

Finally, fearing for his baby's development, he was forced to drive her off and handle the matter himself.

Since then, he has kept to his post, diligently warming the tiny life inside the egg without thought of even food or water.

For fear that his mate, known as Number One penguin, might return and cause trouble, zoo officials intervened and separated her from the father with a large pane of glass.

The quieter, less disruptive Number Four penguin was allowed to stay with the father, puttering around and generally keeping him company during his vigil.

Although visitors who hoped to catch a first peek at the new baby penguin were disappointed to find it still unhatched yesterday, zoo officials did make another related announcement.

They said delivery of 10 more king penguins to Taiwan in mid-December had finally been confirmed. After two weeks of quarantine, they are expected to join the rest of the zoo's penguins.

The 10 penguins are all from US zoos, although they originate from the Southern Hemisphere.

The zoo is still awaiting US government approval for the export of 30 black-footed jackass penguins to Taiwan.

The reason for the delayed arrival of the king penguins is that four were either older or younger than the zoo had requested.

Finally, it was agreed that all 10 birds would be bought for an average price of US$18,000 each.

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