Young animals separated from their mothers can often develop trauma from their experiences in the wild alone. There is no assurance of survival, especially when they still have no hunting skills. The orphaned animal might die of starvation or dehydration. It might get into an accident or encounter a predator. Trauma is also a huge factor in decreasing the animal’s chance of survival.
An orphaned young penguin almost did not survive because she developed a fear of water for some reason. She wasn’t just scared of the water — everything around her made her tremble in fear. ORCA Peru, a non-profit organization, took the penguin and named her Natalia. According to them, the young female penguin was found on the coast of Punta Hermosa Beach.
“People had been pushing her and pushing her into the water, and she was washed up several times,” Carlos from ORCA Peru shared. “She didn’t know what to do. She was terrified of the public around.” Before the team could return Natalia to the ocean, they decided to rehabilitate her first. It was best to keep her inside the center since it’s more dangerous to let a traumatized young penguin be alone in the wild. But every time someone approached Natalia, she would show signs of distress.
Although ORCA hadn’t had any cases of water-fearing penguins before, the team pushed through with their goal for Natalia. Carlos consulted with Omaha’s Wild Kingdom Wild Expert, Peter Gros. The two discussed the proper training activities to help Natalia conquer her water phobia. Peter suggested starting with a small pool of water while feeding her fish. It’s a good start for familiarizing her again with water. And every time Natalia showed some progress regarding her response to water, they would introduce her to a bigger pool.
The first few days weren’t successful because Natalia kept going out of the pool. Even when presented with fish, she couldn’t stay longer than a minute. Until day 3, when Natalia started to show positive improvements. She was regaining her appetite and eating fish inside the pool. On day 11, the brave young penguin took the initiative to dive inside a medium-sized pool. She loved the water again, and it was indeed an excellent improvement.
To make things more fun, Carlos and vet intern Borja brought a female friend for Natalia. Through this, she will learn how to socialize again and hunt food with friends. Rosita was also a rescued penguin, but unlike Natalia, she hadn’t developed any signs of trauma. A friendly and cheerful penguin, the same age as Natalia, would be the perfect companion for her. Things really did go well between the two new friends, and Natalia healed even more and successfully finished rehab.
It was indeed a remarkable moment to witness this once fear-stricken penguin finally be able to swim on her own. After her healing journey, ORCA Peru returned Natalia to the ocean together with Rosita. The team brought her to an island close to Lima, protected by the community and its fishermen. When they set the two penguins free, Rosita was the first to dive into the water, but Natalia stopped at the boat’s edge.
“With Natalia, there was this moment of self-awareness, of gratitude, of memories,” Carlos said. It seemed like Natalia was savoring the triumphant moment and just wanted to observe everything else for the last time. In the end, with Carlos’s final pat of encouragement, Natalia finally returned home. Watch Natalia’s full story in the video below to witness her healing journey.
ORCA Peru also shared their experience on the organization’s Instagram account. Their work on Natalia has shown their dedication and genuine care for their mission. Get involved by sending in donations — a lot of Natalias and Rositas are still out there waiting for help and rehabilitation.Whizzco