Published Date: 2004-12-22 23:50:00
Subject: PRO/AH/EDR> Corynebacterium, penguin - New Zealand (02)
Archive Number: 20041222.3378
CORYNEBACTERIUM, PENGUIN - NEW ZEALAND (02)
A ProMED-mail post
ProMED-mail is a program of the
International Society for Infectious Diseases
Date: 22 Dec 2004
From: ProMED-mail <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Source: BirdLife [edited]
Mystery illness threatens world's rarest penguin
New Zealand's rare Yellow-eyed Penguins are suffering from a mysterious
illness that has killed up to 80 percent of chicks in the worst affected
areas of the South Island. Most penguin chicks have been found dead at
nests on Otago Peninsula and North Otago, with other outbreaks on Stewart
Island and the Catlins coast.
The Yellow-eyed Penguin is considered to be the world's rarest penguin
species. With a global population of just under 5000 birds, the Yellow-eyed
Penguin Megadyptes antipodes is classified by BirdLife as Endangered and is
considered to be the world's rarest penguin species. Its main threats are
introduced predators, such as cats and stoats, habitat loss and
degradation, and occasional population crashes (similar to this one) due to
disease or food shortages.
New Zealand's Department of Conservation (DoC) is currently running tests
to pinpoint the extent and nature of the illness, which is thought to be
caused by a strain of _Corynebacterium_. There are more than 50 strains of
this type of infection, one of which causes human diphtheria.
"This latest die-off is bad news for the world's rarest penguin species.
Subpopulations on the south-east coast of the South Island and Stewart
Island are already in decline, and this will only add to the pressures this
endangered species faces," said Barry Weeber, Senior Conservation Officer,
Forest and Bird (BirdLife in New Zealand).
So far, it seems that only chicks are susceptible to the illness, with
adult birds fortunately remaining healthy. Some accessible chicks on Otago
Peninsula, however, are being given antibiotics to help fight any infection.
Large nearby colonies of Little Penguins (_Eudyptula minor_) do not appear
to have been affected.
[Byline: Dave Gandy]
[ProMED-mail posted on this illness, caused by a form of _Corynebacterium_,
on 27 Nov 2004. At that time, the estimate of dead chicks was 60 percent.
The estimate has risen. Although the adults may live to breed next season,
certainly the numbers have dwindled, with 80 percent of this years chick
population dying, and with the natural attrition that will occur within the
adult population before the next breeding season. Let us hope that those
being treated with antibiotics will survive and that the population can
somehow rebound. - Mod.TG]