Penguin statement

It is with immense sadness we announce the deaths of a number of our much-loved Humboldt penguins, following a devastating outbreak of Avian malaria in the colony.

The parasitic disease, which cannot be passed on to humans or other animal species, is transmitted by the bite of infected mosquitos and despite extensive efforts from veterinary experts and our bird keepers, the virulent outbreak could not be stopped, which has resulted in the loss of many of our 69 birds.

Zoo Director, Derek Grove, said: “We are all heartbroken with the huge loss in Penguin Bay and it’s been an especially distressing time for our bird team who have devoted years to their care.

“Their dedication and tireless efforts to care for our penguins over recent weeks has been exemplary. They’ve provided round-the-clock care to individually treat the birds in their fight to save as many as possible and we thank them for their determination.

“Having consulted with avian experts and animal collections around the world, we know we’ve done all we can.”

DZC has had great success breeding Humboldt penguins for 30 years. We started out with just five hand-reared chicks in 1991 and went on to have one of the largest self-sustained colonies in the country, with many of our penguins helping boost new groups at collections around the country.

Derek added: “Thankfully occurrences like this are rare and in over three decades we’ve never experienced anything like it before.

“Unfortunately, penguins are particularly susceptible to the disease as they do not have natural resistance against it and it’s also not easily identifiable through medical tests.

“We do not know if last year’s unusual weather pattern has played a part, with wet and muggy weather not only impacting the penguin’s moulting season, but also increasing the risk of mosquitos, but what we do know is we now need to focus on continuing to treat the remaining birds and putting in place additional preventative measures to avoid this tragedy happening again.”