Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Another Penguin dies at Calgary Zoo, third since December

Penguin dies at Calgary Zoo, third since December

The Calgary Zoo's Gentoo penguins do their march alongside their swimming hole at the Penguin Plunge Thursday.

Photograph by: Ted Rhodes , Calgary Herald

Calgary Zoo officials have confirmed the death of another penguin — the third since last December — after keepers noticed a three-year-old penguin was lethargic and didn’t have much of an appetite over the weekend.

Guillermo, who came to Calgary in 2011 from Syracuse just prior to the opening of the hugely popular Penguin Plunge exhibit, was being closely monitored by keepers and vets. He had been getting daily treatment and assistance eating, but had showed no improvement over the last several days.

On Monday he was moved to the zoo’s Animal Health Centre where he died. Keepers said Guillermo had been well and was in good condition prior to becoming ill Saturday.

Zoo spokeswoman Trish Exton-Parder confirmed a post-mortem exam was conducted last Monday with results expected in about one week.

Guillermo’s sudden death is the third penguin fatality since December, and since the early 2012 opening of the Penguin Plunge exhibit.

Last February, a penguin named Asa contracted a serious fungal infection which lead to a respiratory illness that could not be treated successfully.

At the time, zoo curator Dr. Malu Celli said at the time that Asa was coughing while walking as early as January, highly unusual for penguins.

The penguin was X-rayed, and blood samples were taken. After being diagnosed with asper-gillosis, the penguin was treated with antibiotics and antifungals but could not recover.

As well, in December 2012, a female penguin named Fiona died after swallowing a foot-long (30.5-centimetre) stick while inside the new exhibit.

At that time, curator Jamie Dorgan said staff keeps a close eye on the birds and regularly scour the grounds for potential dangers.

“This is not necessarily one that we learned a whole lot from,” he said. “We do expect to see penguin deaths regularly here.”

Fiona died from complications following surgery on Dec. 2 to remove the stick. Zoo officials said they don’t know where the errant stick came from, but suggested the wind or a visitor may be responsible.

Initially, keepers noticed Fiona wasn’t eating and performed x-rays which was followed by surgery to extract the stick.

Surgery went well and Fiona appeared to be recovering, including gaining weight. However, the penguin died unexpectedly Dec. 10.

The popular exhibit opened in early 2012 with up to 50 penguins from four species - Gentoo, king, rockhopper and Humboldt - taking up residence in the display.

But in recent years, the zoo has faced criticism following a string of animal deaths and mishaps.
A 2010 independent report revealing a number of planning and collection problems at the zoo led to a number of changes and improvements at the facility which houses more than 1,000.

Only a portion of the zoo has opened this summer after Calgary’s historic flood in June caused extensive damage.


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