Another sick penguin dies at Calgary Zoo

The Calgary Zoo had to euthanize a 14-year-old male Gentoo penguin named Houdini who had been sick for a month with aspergillosis, a fungal infection that affects the respiratory system.

Other penguins being treated for deadly fungal infection

Two gentoo penguins stand in the Penguin Plunge exhibit at the Calgary Zoo. There have been seven penguin deaths at the zoo since December 2012. (Karen Moxley/CBC)

The Calgary Zoo had to euthanize a 14-year-old male Gentoo penguin on Sunday.

Houdini had been sick for a month with aspergillosis, a fungal infection that affects the respiratory system.

The disease is one of the most common causes of death in both captive and wild penguins.

Calgary Zoo says it's concerned the June flooding and high levels of dampness increased the risk factors for the disease.

Officials are also exploring the possibility the zoo may have an aspergillosis species that's resistant to anti-fungal drugs used to treat the disease.

Out of the seven penguin deaths in the past year, one of the zoo's Humboldt penguins was confirmed to have died from aspergillosis in October as well as a King penguin in February.

"Aspergillosis is fungal organism," said Sandy Black, the zoo's lead veterinarian. "We know from human medicine that fungal pneumonias are the worst or most difficult type of pneumonia to deal with, so he actually had fungal growth in his air sacs as well as his lungs."

She says they are still treating other penguins for the same thing.

"We have seven that are on our watch carefully list and are still on treatment," said Black. "The other birds went through a full month of treatment and are now off that treatment."

Penguins have an average life span of roughly 20 years.


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Become a CBC Member

Join the conversation  Create account

Already have an account?