Pathogen Prevalence in the Yellow-Eyed Penguin (Megadyptes antipodes)
American Association of Zoo Veterinarians Conference 2017
Emily Kay, BVSc; Brett Gartrell, BVSc, PhD, MANZCVS; Wendi Roe, BSc, BVSc, PhD, DACVP; Laryssa Howe, BSc, PhD
Institute of Veterinary, Animal and Biomedical Sciences, Massey University, Palmerston North, New Zealand


The yellow-eyed penguin (Megadyptes antipodes) is an endangered species endemic to New Zealand that has faced a number of significant mortality events in recent years and is composed of two distinct and isolated population centers.2,3 Previous research has suggested that the differing ecosystems of the distinct population centres may influence the incidence of pathogens.1 The research aims to develop insights into host-pathogen relationships of wildlife disease in this endangered species, and examine the risk of novel pathogens being introduced into the fragile populations of this endangered species. Thus, the prevalence of known pathogens including Plasmodium spp. and Eimeria spp. within these meta-populations was studied. Surveys of the wild population centres and birds held in rehabilitation facilities revealed significant differences between sample groups. Blood samples collected in 2014 from penguins in rehabilitation were 66% (n=45) positive for Plasmodium spp. on PCR; however, only one of the 18 wild birds sampled was positive for Plasmodium spp. Of the wild penguins sampled from the subantarctic in 2016, all birds were negative for Plasmodium spp. (n=65) but showed a high prevalence (76.6%) of coccidial (Eimeria spp.) oocysts (n=47).


The authors would like to thank the Department of Conservation, Yellow-Eyed Penguin Trust and Massey University for their assistance with this research.

Literature Cited

1.  Argilla LS, Howe L, Gartrell BD, Alley MR. High prevalence of Leucocytozoon spp. in the endangered yellow-eyed penguin (Megadyptes antipodes) in the sub-Antarctic regions of New Zealand. Parasitology. 2013;140(5):672–682.

2.  Boessenkool S, Star B, Waters JM, Seddon PJ. Multilocus assignment analyses reveal multiple units and rare migration events in the recently expanded yellow-eyed penguin (Megadyptes antipodes). Mol Ecol. 2009;18(11):2390–2400.

3.  McKinlay B. Hoiho (Megadyptes antipodes) Recovery Plan 2000–2025. Wellington, NZ: Department of Conservation; 2001.


Speaker Information
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Emily Kay, BVSc
Institute of Veterinary, Animal and Biomedical Sciences
Massey University
Palmerston North, New Zealand

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