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  1. ITV Report

Tragedy as malaria kills zoo's penguin colony

Malaria has wiped out 10 penguins at Exmoor Zoo.

The Zoo, which has had the birds since it opened in1982, says all of its penguins died following the "quick and devastating outbreak".

Some of the birds were descedants of parents of original birds bought to the zoo when it opened.

Tragedy as malaria kills zoo's penguin colony which has been a staple of the zoo for more than 35 years Credit: John Hammond & Exmoor Zoo

The news comes just a week after the disease swept through Penguin Island at Longleat Safari Park, killing a number of their birds.

The zoo says despite best efforts of the staff and vets, all the birds died in just nine days once the outbreak of avian malaria struck.

Danny Reynolds, living collection manager at the zoo, said some of the staff had hand-reared the birds from birth.

He added many of the symptoms had been hidden and hard to spot.

The problem for us was that our penguins were in summer moult, with skin exposed and typically do not feed well or regularly during this natural period of feather replacement which hid the symptoms.

– Danny Reynolds, Living Collection Manager
The penguin enclosure has been at Exmoor Zoo since it opened in 1982 Credit: ITV West Country

The zoo is now considering whether to reintroduce penguins back to the enclosure.

Exmoor Zoo has always had penguins on display and we are very carefully considering whether we should try and exhibit them again.

The disease may never strike again for another 25 years or more but could just as easily occur again next year – it all depends on what birds migrate through the avian malaria areas in Africa and if they visit Exmoor.

If we do, then a lot of care will be given to any possible prophylactic treatments and stocks of the anti- malarial drugs will be available.

– Exmoor Zoo
The penguins were a popular exhibit at the zoo Credit: ITV West Country

Fond farewells have now been said to the colony of penguins - Buster, Newquay, Ludo, Percy, Lemmy, Truddle, Owlie, Blossom, Friendly and Arthur.

  • What is avian malaria?

Avian malaria can be carried by all wild birds and although is not infectious to us or the wild birds, penguins have never had to build an immunity to this as they live on or near the sea where the insects that carry the disease do not occur.