Calgary Zoo unable to find cause of ‘extraordinary and tragic’ penguin deaths

Zoo unable to find cause of penguin deaths

CALGARY — A Calgary Zoo investigation was unable to find out what caused the deaths of seven Humboldt penguins last month.

Director of animal care Jamie Dorgan said Thursday it appears something spooked the penguins in the middle of the night, which caused them to suddenly jump into one of two pools in their holding area.

Seven of the zoo’s 22 Humboldt penguins were unable to get out safely and a necropsy determined that they died from drowning.

“They’re a social species. They tend to all react to things together as a group,” said Dorgan.

“Unfortunately we haven’t been able to figure out what caused these birds to panic in this case, if that’s what happened.”

Usually penguins roost quietly throughout the night.

The zoo did detailed interviews with everyone involved and consulted outside experts about what Dornan called a tragic and extraordinary event.

There was camera footage of the penguin building, but none from the holding areas as there are no cameras there, he said. There was no one in the building from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m., he added.

Despite finding no definitive cause for the deaths, the zoo said it is taking steps to make sure something similar doesn’t happen again.

It immediately restricted the penguins’ access to pools in the back holding areas when staff aren’t present and is considering recommendations on how many birds should be kept in the holding areas.

The zoo is also looking into potential physical changes to the pools and is ensuring continuous ambient lighting in the back holding areas at night.

The surviving 15 Humboldt penguins are doing well, said Dorgan.

Humboldts live off the coasts of Chile and Peru, and weigh no more than about six kilograms when fully grown.

The zoo has three other species of penguins including kings, gentoos and rockhoppers.

The zoo has made headlines in the past over the deaths of its animals, including an otter, a giant capybara, a caribou calf and stingrays.

It’s upsetting for zoo staff any time animals die suddenly, said Dorgan.

“Our staff spend more than half of their life here looking after these animals and they’re really like family members to them.

“It’s a really difficult situation.”

— Follow @LaurenKrugel on Twitter

Lauren Krugel, The Canadian Press

Just Posted

Fort restores a musical Christmas tradition this weekend

The Old-Fashioned Musical Christmas is back at the Fort Langley National Historic Site.

Giving is the reason for the season for a young Langley organizer

A homeless giving campaign started three years ago in Vancouver has spread to Langley.

WHAT’S IN STORE: Langley realtors take Monopoly play to new level

A local real estate agent has partnered with a few others to host a unique fundraiser for refugees.

VIDEO: Beach rocker brings sound back home to Langley

WIN TICKETS: Brookswood native Daniel Wesley returns.

Crash closes 32 Avenue in Aldergrove

Delivery van and small car collide just east of 272 Street

Langley uke players put fun twist on Christmas favourites

A Christmas show Saturday is about spreading holiday spirit and raising travel money.

Aldergrove Legion hosts Christmas breakfast

Aldergrove enjoys Light Up Aldergrove Parade and Legion’s annual Christmas breakfast

Quarter of students were away sick at Maple Ridge elementary school

Students and teachers at Maple Ridge school away with colds, flu.

Suspect in Revelstoke standoff killed himself: RCMP

Mohammadali Darabi, suspect in the Calgary homicide of his roommate, was stopped in Revelstoke

Clinton visits Vancouver, applauds Trudeau, celebrates Democrats’ win in Alabama

Clinton told crowd she cheered when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau appointed the country’s first gender-balanced cabinet.

VIDEO: Salt Spring Islanders ferry piano to their floating home

Everyone enjoys a little music on the water, but not everyone has a piano on their boat

Frustrated federal workers rally against Phoenix payroll system at B.C. MP’s office

Some employees out tens of thousands of dollars with ‘no end in sight’

Bomb detonated in Kamloops neighbourhood

Kamloops RCMP are investigating after an improvised explosive device was detonated Wednesday morning

No More Shootouts: Strong defence will be Canada’s backbone at world juniors

Head coach doesn’t want a situation where a hot goalie or a lucky bounce can determine a team’s fate

Most Read