Penguins Woodland Park Zoo/Zoo photo by Dennis Dow
A second Woodland Park penguin dies; more are sick
The Woodland Park Zoo says an old penguin died this week, and complications from avian malaria are suspected.
The 21-year-old bird had been undergoing medical treatment, including a blood transfusion. Avian malaria is a parasitic blood disease that mosquitoes transmit.
Three other penguins show symptoms of malaria. But the zoo says those symptoms are less severe than the bird that died had. Still, the zoo says the three birds, who are being treated for the disease, have a guarded prognosis.
The five penguins in the exhibit older than 15 are undergoing drug treatment as a precaution. There is no vaccine for avian malaria.
The zoo has submitted blood samples from birds to a specialized lab and expects results in a week to 10 days. The zoo said Woodland Park visitors are not at risk since they cannot get avian malaria from either mosquitoes or penguins.
This is the second penguin death this month at the zoo, which opened its new penguin exhibit in May with 20 birds.
Zoo officials said that bird died because it ingested sealant from a pipe in its exhibit. But tests later showed that it, too, had malaria. The zoo says malaria may have contributed to the bird's death.
The sealant was removed, and there is no indication that the bird that died this week ingested the sealant, the zoo said.
"Penguins are known to be especially prone to avian malaria. However, like other diseases spread by mosquitoes, avian malaria is not typically a major concern in the Pacific Northwest because of our relatively small mosquito population," Dr. Darin Collins, director of animal health at the Woodland Park Zoo, said in a statement.
He said avian malaria is more common in Midwest and eastern U.S. which have both higher humidity and more mosquitoes than in the Seattle area.
The male penguin that died was known as "Burkles" and was the oldest bird in the zoo's penguin colony. He arrived from Sea World San Diego in March. Humboldt penguins can live up to 28 years in zoos and approximately 20 years in the wild.
Posted by Scott Sunde at August 27, 2009 2:30 p.m.