It's been a tough few weeks for our yellow-eyed penguins at Moeraki: we have now found dead 5 females and 4 males, 3 chicks have died in hospital and 2 chicks were found dead in the colonies this season. Some of the autopsies come back that they died of Avian Malaria, some are inconclusive. It is always sad to loose a penguin but one stood out in particular: Wotan the Magnificent - here our last photo of him, round and fat and ready to moult with his mate Poppy. Three days later he was dead. He had finally found a wife and raised a chick and he was obviously in good nick but then he was dead - nothing conclusive in his autopsy report. Whilst we can't cure death we think we are pretty good at determining if a penguin is sick and we take it into rehab, and then maybe we can help (not always but usually). But Wotan? He did not look like he needed help.
How can we deal with Avian Malaria? It has been detected in yellow-eyed penguins as far back as 1944, and African penguins get it. Is there a cure? Not that we are aware of. But how do you administer medication when a bird appears perfectly healthy and they die so quickly that even a blood test that might tell us, would not save their lives.
(In case you are wondering about Poppy, she is moulting on her own but may have found company in the bachelor neighbour.)
For now we mourn Wotan and all the others that have died, and feeling a little anxious and worried about our precious penguins.