Malaria outbreak kills six penguins at London Zoo

Library picture of penguins at London Zoo.
Library picture of penguins being weighed at London Zoo. Photo: PA.

Six penguins at London Zoo have died from a strain of malaria, after contracting the disease from mosquito bites.

The outbreak has been blamed on an increase in the number of mosquitoes over the capital's wet summer:

Due to the exceptionally wet and muggy weather this summer, mosquito numbers were unusually high and ZSL’s keepers and vets decided to increase the penguins’ preventative anti-malarial medicine.

Sadly, earlier this summer six penguins died of avian-malaria - a different strain to the one that affects humans. Avian-malaria is contracted directly from a mosquito bite and cannot be passed between birds.

– London Zoo spokesman.

Keepers and vets at the zoo are keeping a close eye on the rest of the colony and say that all of the penguins currently appear healthy and well. Anti-malarial medicine is administered daily and there are mosquito traps in the birds' enclosure. Zookeepers also spray lavender oil in the penguins’ nest boxes to deter the insects.

A spokesperson for the zoo stressed that there was no risk to visitor's health and that the zoo remains open for business as usual.

Avian-malaria is endemic to the UK wild bird population.