Heartbreak at zoo as avian malaria kills almost all of penguin colony

A sudden outbreak of bird malaria killed almost the entire penguin colony of a UK zoo, leaving the staff “heartbroken”.

About 50 Humboldt penguins succumbed to the disease at Dudley Zoo in the West Midlands – 70 percent of the attraction’s total.

The disease is caused by infected mosquitoes and changes in weather.

Zoo director Derek Grove said staff had “never seen anything like it before”.

“Unfortunately, penguins are particularly susceptible to the disease because they don’t have natural resistance to it and it’s not easy to spot even through medical tests,” he said.

“We don’t know if last year’s unusual weather pattern played a role, as wet and humid weather not only affects penguins’ moulting but also increases the risk of mosquitos.

“But what we do know is that we must now focus on further treating the remaining birds and taking additional preventive measures to avoid a recurrence of this tragedy.”

The zoo stated that it had had “great success” in breeding Humboldt penguins over the past 30 years.

It started with just five hand-reared chicks in 1991 and grew into one of the largest self-sufficient colonies in the UK.

The zoo had 69 Humboldts when the bird malaria outbreak occurred.

Derek said the populace was also used to encourage new groups at rallies across the country.

He said: “We are all heartbroken over the great loss at Penguin Bay and it has been an especially depressing time for our bird team, who have spent years caring for them.

“Your commitment and tireless efforts for our penguins over the past few weeks have been exemplary.

“They went out of their way to treat the birds individually in their fight around the clock in order to save as many as possible and we thank them for their determination.

“After consulting with bird experts and animal collections around the world, we know that we have done everything in our power.”

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