Penguin shortage means Telford Zoo uses models

Image caption,
A shortage of penguins means Telford's Exotic Zoo has had to fill its new exhibit with model birds

A zoo has been forced to fill its new penguin exhibit with models, as a shortage of birds means it is unable to get the real thing.

Telford Exotic Zoo, in Shropshire, spent months building a penguin enclosure and was expecting a delivery of Humboldt penguins this summer.

But owner Scott Adams said a recent avian malaria outbreak means they cannot get any.

He said: "We've just timed it really badly."

Mr Adams said zoos depend on penguins bred in the UK and Europe to protect those in the wild and to monitor the gene pool.

The enclosure at the zoo is so specialised, it can't be adapted for other animals, so a decision has been made to use models until the zoo can get the real thing.

What is avian malaria?

  • Avian malaria is caused by a different parasite to human malaria, and is endemic in domestic birds
  • The human form is transmitted by the Anopheles mosquito, which does not thrive in colder areas of Europe
  • However, the parasite that is carried by the Culex mosquito, which causes the avian strain, is an established UK species
  • Although it does not usually kill, it can be lethal to species which have not evolved resistance to the disease, such as penguins
Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Humboldt penguins are native to South America

Mr Adams added: "Unfortunately over the last couple of years there was a really bad case of penguin malaria that swept through the UK and lots of zoos, if not most zoos, have lost a lot of penguins.

"Now, most of the big zoos are getting their penguins back so any spare penguins that would have come to us from the surplus lists or from the stud books from other zoos are now not available at the moment.

"If we had been looking for penguins a few years ago we would probably have already had them by now,"

He said the zoo may not be able to get penguins until next year.

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