Above – Sweet smelling and a preventative measure: the nesting boxes at Penguin Bay will henceforth be treated with lavender oil once a week to help deter mosquitos


THE HUMBOLDT PENGUIN colony at Dudley Zoo (DZC) in the West Midlands has been struck down by an outbreak of avian malaria, killing more than 70 per cent of its occupants.

The parasitic disease, which cannot be passed on to humans or other animal species, is transmitted by the bite of infected mosquitos. Despite the extensive efforts from veterinary experts and keepers at Dudley Zoo, the virulent outbreak could not be stopped, which has resulted in the loss of many of the zoo’s 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 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.”

DZG has introduced preventative measures including daily anti-malaria medication for the surviving penguins, who remain in the enclosure and are being closely monitored by keepers. As lavender is a natural mosquito repellent, they will be planting several lavender bushes around the enclosure and treating all the nesting boxes with lavender oil on a weekly basis.

Mr Grove 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 a natural resistance against it and it’s also not easily identifiable through medical tests.”

Staff believe that last year’s unusual weather pattern could have played a part in the spread of avian malaria, with wet and muggy weather not only impacting the penguin’s moulting season, but also increasing the risk of mosquitos.

For more information on DZG, visit: www.dudleyzoo.org.uk

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