African Penguin Population Health: Results of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums Reports From the Veterinary Advisors, 2007–2016
The Association of Zoos and Aquariums African penguin Species Survival Plan (SSP) is long-standing and currently includes 50 institutions representing 1063 individual birds. An extensive survey is deployed every 2 yr to gather information regarding the morbidity, mortality, preventive medicine practices, and current research activities across institutions. Over the last 10 yr these reports have yielded a plethora of useful information to aid in the understanding of diseases affecting this commonly held species and to inform the veterinary advisors of health and research activities within the SSP. Based on the results of the surveys from 2007–2016, the main causes of mortality in this species in order of incidence include aspergillosis, neoplasia, avian malaria, kidney disease, and osteoarthritis. Causes of morbidity include suspected or confirmed aspergillosis, molting issues, avian malaria, arthritis, and pododermatitis. The majority of African penguins (Spheniscus demersus) held outdoors in the SSP receive prophylactic antimalarial treatment throughout the mosquito season (typically April through November). In the most recent survey, the most commonly utilized antimalarial drugs were primaquine (24%) or sulfadiazine-pyrimethamine-folic acid (20%) with greatly varying dosing regimens. Preventive health examinations are regularly performed in 78% of surveyed institutions, including vaccination against West Nile virus (WNV). Multiple vaccine reactions of varying severity have been noted after administration of the equine recombinant WNV vaccine. The veterinary advisors recommend malaria prophylaxis for all outdoor colonies in North America due to avian malaria cases reported in this species in all areas of North America over the last 10 yr. Furthermore, vaccination with killed products is recommended for WNV protection.
The authors thank the previous African penguin veterinary advisor Allison Wack who collected data for VAG reports during the first portion of this time period, as well as the many veterinarians and other staff members that spent valuable time collating their institutional data to make these surveys effective.