Lafayette, Indiana (WLFI) – The three remaining penguins at the Columbian Park Zoo in Lafayette remain in critical condition.
The zoo suspects that six of the nine African penguins were killed by bird malaria last week, and they believe the other three suffer from the same thing.
Zoo assistant manager Caitlyn Laffery said they couldn’t be sure because they didn’t see the parasite that causes the disease in blood samples,
But, a positive PCR test confirmed an exposure. Antimalarials given to penguins can remove parasites from their blood.
“This means that there are wild birds in that area that are biting the mosquitoes and passing on the parasite to the penguins,” TED spokesperson Diane DiNapoli told News 18.
She helped save countless African penguins from the treasure oil spill in 2000. She shared her penguin experience with News 18 to comment on the penguin death at the Columbian Park Zoo.
“There appears to be an increase in avian malaria in general,” she said. “So one theory is that because of this warm climate, it gives this parasite a chance to spread further and further.”
Colombian Park penguins were treated with anti-malarial drugs and brought indoors at night in an effort to avoid exposure to mosquitoes. But in this case, that was not enough.
“We’re looking to the future to make sure we’re more prepared next time,” Lavery said.
However, in the midst of treating the remaining birds, the zoo has not made any plans to bring in new penguins.
“It’s hard to separate yourself from work when you have such a tremendous passion, and you care so much about these animals,” Lavery said. “So these deaths hit us hard.”