A penguin at Birdworld wildlife park has become a 'guide-bird' for a companion suffering cataracts – escorting her to food and round their enclosure.
The helpful animal – called Penguin – has bonded with 'Squid' the three-year-old with eye problems.
Penguin is now inseparable from Squid who has poor vision because of cataracts – a debilitating condition that clouds the lens of the eye.
The hand-reared African Penguins 'amazed' the keepers at Birdworld on the A325 between Farnham and Bordon with their remarkable relationship.
Squid is often disoriented during busy feeding times and relies on Penguin's "unwavering calmness".
Penguin has become Squid's beacon – guiding her around the enclosure and acting as her 'eyes'.
Birdworld spokesperson Polly Branham said: “The intuitive behaviour observed between Penguin and Squid has revealed a remarkable level of empathy and understanding, showcasing the profound connections that can form within the animal kingdom.”
Penguin's journey began during the pandemic facing an unknown illness that required hands-on care.
The team say it was this challenging start which made him exceptionally timid - so he had to heavily dependent on his keepers.
As he grew stronger, Penguin eventually integrated with the colony at the park.
When Squid was hatched, she displayed the typical lively and vocal traits of a penguin chick, despite developing cataracts at just six weeks old - a unique occurrence within her otherwise healthy family.
Polly said: “In the penguin community, where social bonds and mutual tolerance are crucial, Squid's being partially sighted posed a manageable challenge, as long as she could engage in natural behaviours."
Having been nurtured within the colony, Squid honed her skills alongside her peers.
As she ventured from the nest, Penguin, too, was embracing his newfound strength on the beach park, learning the essence of being a penguin.
Polly explained: "A lot of Squid's success is based on confidence.
"She used to be quite anxious about approaching the fish bucket at feeding time because the excitement of the other penguins created a more unpredictable environment, and she would shy away from this for fear of getting caught in the crossfire of beaks.
"That is how Penguin has been such an enormous help to her.
"His stability was something she could rely on, the base from which she has steadily expanded her world."
Their simultaneous journeys of discovery led to a remarkable relationship, with Squid's boldness perfectly complemented by Penguin's patience, making them an inseparable and inspiring duo.
Senior penguin keeper, Natalie Marshall added: “We didn’t expect Penguin and Squid to form such a close bond, and it's evident that Penguin's resilience significantly influenced Squid's self-assurance."
In terms of Squid's future with the condition, Polly added: "In Squids case, she has congenital cataract, not age-related, and so we have had to let her mature as a penguin and see what extent her vision is affected.
"As it turns out, Squids visual impairment is different in each eye.
"Given that she has not known any different, she has adjusted without realising, and we see in the way she walks (stooping forwards) and how she behaves around the other penguins (can get taken by surprise if approached from a blind spot) that she compensates throughout and is fully integrated into the colony.
"Cataract is an operable condition in penguins, and something we have not discounted for the future.
"However, at this early stage, and the position of Squids cataract, we are confident she is better off without the surgery."
Birdworld is one of the UK’s largest bird parks, and is home to over 150 species of birds, with 40 per cent facing extinction, the park also houses goats, rabbits, pigs, and sheep at its Jenny Wren Farm.