Three months after eight Humboldt penguins were brought to the Byculla Zoo from South Korea, one of them, a one-and-a-half-year-old female penguin, died at the zoo’s quarantined section on Sunday. Reason: Liver dysfunction and an intestinal infection, zoo authorities said.They were brought to the city on July 26.
Three males and four female penguins, between the ages of 1 and 3 years, remain at the zoo. The incident comes a week after officials from Veermata Jijabai Bhosale Udyan confirmed they were going to put up the eight Humboldt penguins, bought from Coex Aquarium, Seoul in South Korea, on public display by mid-November.
As part of the city zoo’s modernisation plan, the Shiv Sena-led civic body announced the introduction of the penguins after the 2012 civic elections. The civic body spent Rs2.57 crore to buy the South American species found in the cold climes of coastal Peru and Chile.
Zoo officials said the penguin died at 8.17am on Sunday. A post-mortem was conducted by professors from the department of pathology, Bombay Veterinary College in Parel . Officials said that post-mortem result is likely to be declared on Monday.
A press statement issued by zoo authorities said the 3-kg penguin, identified by a green-blue tag, began showing symptoms of dullness, inappetance, greenish stools and laboured breathing on October 18 . The bird was examined immediately by veterinary doctors and experts. Stool samples were examined on the same day and a culture sensitivity test (bacterial infection test) was conducted.
“The results revealed the presence of ‘Gram –ve bacteria’ which was sensitive to drug enrofloxacin, indicating intestinal infection. Treatment began with consultation from an international exotic bird specialist, experienced in treating penguins abroad,” said Dr.Sanjay Tripathi, director, of the zoo. “However, the bird did not respond well to treatment and her blood test conducted on October 19 revealed severe liver dysfunction.”
The exotic bird specialist suggested an X-ray and an ultra-sonography test for further diagnosis. “The tests were conducted on October 22, but no specific observations were reported. We consulted another avian specialist who examined the bird and modified the treatment by adding new medicines,” said Tripathi. “Even this did not help and the bird finally succumbed to the ailment on Sunday. The final cause of death will be revealed after a detailed forensic analysis.”
Zoo officials also said there was no change in date for the public display of the seven remaining penguins. “The other seven penguins are healthy and under constant observation. We have no plans to defer the public display, expected by mid-November at the zoo’s interpretation centre,” said Tripathi, adding they were being kept at the quarantined area that maintains a temperature of 16 to 18 degrees Celsius.
Animal activists said greenish stools indicated the penguin’s ill-health was as a result of negligence by zoo authorities. “Even before going in for public display, one penguin has not survived. The food being provided to the penguins is probably not appropriate, which might have led to her death because the liver and intestines are affected only because of food. The authorities now need to send these birds back to a safer sanctuary. This city has been globally shamed,” said Anand Siva, animal welfare activist from Chembur, who carried out several protest when the penguins were brought to Mumbai in July.
PENGUIN MIGHT BE REPLACED
Sources from the Veermata Jijabai Bhosale Udyan and Zoo said that following the post-mortem report, it will be seen whether the penguin had health issues before being brought to Mumbai .
“We had already spoken to the contractor regarding such a problem and depending on the report, we will be asking them to send us another penguin from South Korea as a replacement,” said a zoo official.