Friday, January 16, 2015

Oldest living African #penguin saved from skin cancer

CCTV.com 01-14-2015

It came as quite a shock to friends and keepers when the world's oldest living African penguin in captivity was diagnosed with skin cancer. After undergoing radiation therapy, the 40-year-old furry little lady is once again swimming and waddling around at her home in the US state of Colorado.
That loud braying sound you hear comes from these African penguins who are very much at home here at the Pueblo, Colorado zoo.

It came as quite a shock to friends and keepers when the world
It came as quite a shock to friends and keepers when the world's oldest living African penguin in captivity was diagnosed with skin cancer.

After undergoing radiation therapy, the 40-year-old furry little lady is once again swimming and waddling around at her home in the US state of Colorado.
After undergoing radiation therapy, the 40-year-old furry little lady is once again swimming and waddling around at her home in the US state of Colorado.

Tess is unique in another important way: she
Tess is unique in another important way: she's part of a rapidly dwindling population of African penguins, penguins that are currently threatened by climate change.

"Well, they are very personable. In the early morning, sometimes you come in and they're swimming like crazy," says Melanie Pococke, zoo penguin keeper. Tess, whose friend Mongo is her constant companion, is the star of the show here. At just over 40 years of age, she is the world's oldest living African penguin in captivity. "No female's ever made it to 40 before," Pococke says.

But Tess had a serious health scare recently when skin cancer was discovered on her face. Doctors at Colorado State University's veterinary hospital used very advanced, targeted radiation therapy to treat it. "She was able to be asleep for the whole procedure, didn't feel a thing, has responded very well to the therapy," says Doctor Matt Johnston.

Tess is unique in another important way: she's part of a rapidly dwindling population of African penguins, penguins that are currently threatened by climate change. "You know the plight of the African penguin is sad," Johnston says.

Tess' vet, who's studied the issue, says climate change has altered ocean currents off the southern and western coasts of Africa where the penguins live, forcing the birds to swim up to 30 kilometers to get the sardines and anchovies they depend on. "What used to be a quick jaunt into the ocean and a five kilometer swim which is nothing for a penguin is now turning into a marathon. When they don't have energy sources they can't breed as well. There's young that are not being fed as well," Johnston says.

So where once several million African penguins lived in the wild, now there are fewer than 200,000 and the number is dropping. "The African penguins at the current predictions will be extinct within the next 20 years," Johnston says.

"It hurts to know as someone who loves life in all of its glorious forms that my kid may go the Western Cape and not get to see the nesting penguins because they're amazing to see," Johnston says.
He hopes Tess' story shines a light on the African penguin problem and leads to action.

"Yeah I like to think of her as an ambassador for awareness," he says. An ambassador who continues to age gracefully, delighting her zoo keeper and everyone else. "Anything past 40 is just you know. Gravy, yeah," says Pococke.

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