Friday, December 20, 2013

Calgary Zoo brings in penguin expert following post-flood deaths

Candice Ward / For Metro Dr. Jake Veasey, Director of Animal Care Conservation and Research gives a tour of the Calgary Zoo to show the devastation and tell the heroic stories of animal rescue during the June floods.

With its penguin colony still at threat of a deadly disease outbreak, the Calgary Zoo has flown in an expert from Scotland to check things out. Dr. Romain Pizzi, an expert at the society that runs the Edinburgh Zoo (home to 70 Gentoo penguins), was scheduled to land here Thursday. While keen to recognize his own staff, Dr. Jake Veasey suggested it was prudent to get an outsider’s take following a spate of post-flood penguin deaths.

“If there’s any tiny insight, any tiny tricks that he has we definitely want to make sure that we don’t miss out on those,” said Veasey, the Calgary Zoo’s director of animal care, conservation and research.

Five penguins have died since June’s historic flood: Three likely due to avian malaria and two from a disease called aspergillosis. In contrast, two birds perished in the 21-month period before the flood. Zoo officials point to a 7,300-per cent spike in fungal spores recorded outside the building at the riverside animal park in the wake of the flooding as the chief cause.

Veasey believes the zoo has since “turned the corner” and reported no birds are currently in the “immediate danger zone.” Still, officials are looking for bacterial flare-ups that could be fatal. “We can’t say that we’ll ever eradicate this as a problem in our colony,” he said. “It’s always going to be there.”


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