Good news, everyone! The little duckling that was rescued a couple of weeks ago is doing great! Swimmer, as the duckling was called affectionately by its rescuers, is enjoying its stay at the St. Maarten Zoo. The duckling was taken to the zoo shortly after its rescue out of a well. It appeared to be only a few days old at the time.


Little ducklings are unable to take care of themselves. They are susceptible to hyperthermia and drowning because ducklings do not yet produce the oil necessary to keep water of their feathers. Furthermore, they need the guidance of other ducks to learn species-specific skills to survive.


Luckily, the rescuers did not touch the duckling or give it much attention while in their care. This is important, because ducklings easily imprint on those around them. Stories are known of friendly dogs taking care of ducklings, resulting in the ducklings thinking they are canines!


Swimmer’s survival is the result of what is known scientifically as conspecific brood parasitism. Conspecific brood parasitism means, for instance, that another female bird lays eggs in an already existing nest and then her offspring are raised by the owner of that nest. This is especially common among ducks, and many other birds, but it also occurs in insects, fishes and amphibians!


On its arrival in the zoo, Swimmer was added to a nest of duck eggs about to hatch. The zoo caretaker anticipated that the eggs would hatch shortly – and he was right. Later that day, the other eggs hatched and Swimmer suddenly got a lot of foster siblings! Its foster mother had no problem accepting Swimmer as one of her brood.


When visiting St. Maarten Zoo to check on the duckling’s progress, the rescuers saw first-hand that the duckling’s name was well chosen. Swimmer really loves to swim!


Photos and writing by Emma Croes