Monterey Bay Aquarium regrets to announce the deaths of three African penguins. Zuri and Betty, two female African penguins died Friday, Nov. 21, and Tranya, a male penguin, died Saturday evening, Nov. 22. The cause of deaths is unknown at this time.
After the two unexpected mortalities Friday, aquarium aviculturists, who know each individual in the colony and care deeply for the penguins, conducted a behavioral evaluation of all the birds in the penguin exhibit, looking for any abnormalities. Four birds, including Tranya, were moved off exhibit as a precaution so aviculturists could monitor them more closely. Tranya was being treated and given fluids behind the scenes but deteriorated rapidly Saturday evening and died at 8 p.m. The other three penguins were moved back on exhibit Sunday morning.
The aquarium’s Director of Veterinary Services, Dr. Mike Murray, performed preliminary post- mortem exams on the three penguins and has found no obvious cause for the deaths. Information from a number of laboratories will hopefully shed more light on the cause of death, but may take a few weeks to be completed.
The penguin exhibit was closed briefly on Friday and has since been reopened. Dr. Murray and animal care staff are continuing to monitor the 15 birds in the colony.
Zuri was hatched Nov. 10, 2002 at the Maryland Zoo. She arrived at the aquarium in 2006 and was paired with Pringle. The mated pair are the biological parents of Tola, a chick that hatched at the aquarium in 2011. Betty hatched Nov. 13, 2008, also at the Maryland Zoo, and she and her sibling, Sabie, arrived at the aquarium in 2009. She was paired with Seekoei. Tranya has been at the aquarium since 2005. He hatched Nov. 11, 1998 and came to Monterey from the Aquarium of Americas in New Orleans, along with his sibling Walvis. Tranya was paired with Molopo.
All of the birds are part of a Species Survival Plan (SSP) for endangered African penguins, which are native to southern Africa. The SSP, managed by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, identifies specific penguins as genetically important breeding pairs to the captive population of this species.