Published Date: 2004-11-27 23:50:00
Subject: PRO/AH/EDR> Corynebacterium, penguin - New Zealand
Archive Number: 20041127.3171
CORYNEBACTERIUM, PENGUIN - NEW ZEALAND
A ProMED-mail post
ProMED-mail, a program of the
International Society for Infectious Diseases
Date: 27 Nov 2004
From: ProMED-mail <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Source: www.stuff.co.nz [edited]
Race to determine penguin disease as more die
Otago's yellow-eyed penguins continue to die from a mysterious disease as
the Department of Conservation (DOC) races to determine the extent of the
More chick carcasses were collected from nests on the Otago Peninsula and in
North Otago yesterday. The mortality rate of recently hatched peninsula
chicks dying from the [bacterial disease] described as avian diphtheria is
close to 60 percent.
A sampling program testing both adult and young penguins was completed
yesterday and now DOC staff, volunteers and the Yellow-eyed Penguin Trust
were waiting to find out the extent of the infection, DOC Coastal Otago area
office biodiversity assets manager Dave Houston said. "We need to nail down
which species of bacteria and which one the penguins could have. It may have
been there all the time but why it's causing problems [now], we don't know."
The disease is caused by a corynebacterium, of which there are more than 50
strains. One causes human diphtheria. It was unknown which strain was
killing the penguin chicks, and it is the 1st time a corynebacterium was
recorded as causing harm to birds.
The sampling results were about a week away and when they were known, an
action plan to help the penguins would be created, if it was needed, Mr
Houston said. The greatest danger was the infection of breeding pairs, but
initial results show most older penguins remain in good health, he said.
Some accessible penguins were given antibiotics twice a day to fight the
infection; however, it was not feasible to dose all penguins because of
scant resources and the stress it caused the birds, Mr Houston said.
During a survey at Bushy Beach on the outskirts of Oamaru, Mr Houston found
2 chicks dead and 4 ill. Volunteers monitoring Boulder Beach today also
found 2 dead chicks and 4 unlikely to survive.
Volunteer and retired scientist John Darby, who had been involved with care
of Otago's yellow-eyed penguins since 1979, said he found recent events very
discouraging. "Just as it seemed we were going to get on top of things,
this happens." Better news was that adult birds appeared unharmed, he said.
All tested yellow-eyed adults and residents of the Oamaru blue penguin
colony were in good health.
The blue penguin colony [management] was working closely with DOC, manager
Michelle Wright said. "There have been no reported signs of any blue
penguins being affected. However, we are taking all precautions required, as
requested by DOC, and are in daily contact with them at this time," she said.