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Diseases of penguins

Thirteen of the worlds 16 penguin species (family Spheniscidae)


occur in New Zealands maritime territories(1). Four are either rare or
only locally common endemics and, of the remaining species, five
breed here and four are non-breeding visitors(1). The endemic and
endangered yellow-eyed penguin or hoiho (Megadyptes antipodes) is
locally distributed on the South Island, Stewart Island, Codfish
Island, the Auckland Islands and Campbell Island. The rarest

Penguins are a significant component of New Zealands


biodiversity with 13 species, four of which are endemic.
Disease prevalence studies have been
limited to a few species and to a few
disease agents. The published literature is
reviewed along with unpublished data from
New Zealands diagnostic laboratories.
Padraig J Duignan

penguin species in the world, its population has declined


dramatically on the South Island(2). Fledglings go to sea in February

In recent years there has been a dramatic decline in the number of

and March and half die of malnutrition during their first five weeks

erect-crested and rockhopper penguins. The former has decreased by

at sea resulting in a peak of beach-cast mortality in May and

20% on the Antipodes since the mid 1990s and the latter by about

June(3)(4)(5). The Fiordland crested penguin or tawaki (Eudyptes

90% over the past 50 years on Campbell Island(8). Although the

pachyrhynchus) is also an endangered endemic that has a restricted

factors responsible have yet to be established, the circumpolar

breeding distribution from Westland to Stewart Island. Most beach-

decline of rockhoppers suggests widespread environmental changes

cast mortality occurs from October to February when fledglings go

(D Thompson, ESR, personal communication). Declines of yellow-

to sea and breeding adults begin to moult(5). Related endemic species

eyed penguins have been attributed to disturbance, habitat loss,

are the Snares crested penguin (E robustus) and the erect-crested

introduced predators, periodic food shortages, and fluctuations in

penguin (E sclateri). The former is locally abundant on the Snares

climatic variables such as rainfall and sea surface temperatures(9)(10)(11).

Islands where the only nesting sites occur. The latter breeds on
subantarctic islands including the Antipodes, the Bounties, and on
Disappointment Island in the Aucklands. Outside the breeding
season individuals of both species disperse widely and have been
recorded regularly in Australia. Fledgling Snares crested penguins are
occasionally found wrecked on Southland beaches in summer(5). Low
numbers of erect-crested penguin fledglings are found beach-cast on
the southeast coast of the South Island during March and April(5).
The native species with the most northerly breeding distribution,
extending from Northland to Stewart Island and the Chatham
Islands, is the blue penguin or korora (Eudyptula minor). At least five
phenotypic variants, or subspecies, occur around New Zealand; one
is known as the white-flippered penguin. Blue penguins are common
and frequent the Hauraki Gulf, Cook Strait, Kapiti coast, Otago,
Foveaux Strait and the Chathams. Between1960 and1982 almost

In Antarctica, New Zealands Ross Dependency has three breeding


penguin species including the emperor (Aptenodytes forsteri), Adlie
(Pygoscelis adeliae), and chinstrap (P antarctica)(1). Visitors and
vagrants to the New Zealand region include the two subspecies of E
chrysalophus (the royal and macaroni), king (A patagonicus), and
gentoo penguin (P papua), whose closest breeding colonies are on
Macquarie Island and Heard Island. The Magellanic penguin
(Spheniscus magellanicus) is a rare vagrant from South America(1).
The threats to the various species in New Zealand territories include
predation by introduced mammals, habitat alteration and
disturbance, competition for resources, and incidental mortality by
commercial fisheries(12)(13). Infectious diseases and parasites may also
compromise the survival of individuals or relict populations and are
the subject of this review.

16,000 were recorded in beach surveys for sea bird mortality(5). This

Infectious diseases

figure includes unusual mortalities (wrecks) such as the 3,729 blue

The literature on infectious diseases of New Zealands penguins is

penguins found dead on Aucklands east coast beaches in 1974 and a

patchy with few directed studies on endemic diseases. Several

similar event in Northland in 1973-74(5)(6). Annual mortality peaks

penguin species have received little attention apart from cataloguing

from January to March, coinciding with fledging and the moulting

parasites. With little information on endemic disease, the risks from

period of breeding birds(5)(7).

potentially exotic diseases are largely unknown.

The subantarctic islands (Aucklands, Campbell, Bounties, Antipodes,

Viral infections

Snares) are frequented by ten penguin species and four regularly


breed there. The yellow-eyed penguin is a solitary-nesting species
while the other three species are colony-nesting crested penguins and
include the Snares crested and erect-crested penguins. The smallest
of the group, the eastern rockhopper penguin (E chrysocome filholi),
occurs locally on New Zealands subantarctic islands and on
Macquarie Island in Australian territory. Two other rockhopper

A 1988 serological survey on a limited number of rockhopper and


yellow-eyed penguins on Campbell Island reported no antibodies
against a panel of poultry viruses including the agents of infectious
bronchitis, reticuloendotheliosis, Newcastle disease, infectious
laryngotracheitis, avian encephalomyelitis, infectious bursal disease,
Mareks disease, and fowlpox(14).

subspecies, E c chrysocome and E c moselyi, are vagrants. Crested

Paramyxoviruses: Nine paramyxovirus isolates were recovered from

penguins breed and moult ashore and then spend about four

cloacal swabs collected between 1976 and 1979 from royal and king

months foraging at sea over the winter .

penguins on Macquarie and Heard Islands in Australias

(8)

Surveillance 28(4) 2001

page

subantarctic(15)(16). One isolate was indistinguishable from viruses of

Orthomyxoviruses: Avian influenza virus antibodies, but not

PMV-1 serotype (lentogenic Newcastle disease virus, NDV). No

clinical disease, were found in Adlie penguins from Casey Station

viruses were isolated from either gentoo or rockhopper penguins .


(15)

King, royal and rockhopper penguins sampled at several sites had


antibodies against one of the isolates and royal penguins were
seropositive for NDV(15). Antibodies against the same viruses were
also detected in sera from a few blue penguins sampled along the
Victorian coast of Australia(17).

and the Ross Sea in Antarctica(18)(22).


Arboviruses: Antibodies against a Flavivirus have been found
occasionally in sera from king, royal, Adlie, and rockhopper
penguins(15). A new Flavivirus, Bunyavirus, and Orbivirus were
isolated from ticks (Ixodes uriae) collected from penguins on
Macquarie Island, which suggests several possibilities for the low

In Antarctica, paramyxoviruses were isolated from Adlie penguin

prevalence of antibodies: transmission rates may be low, penguins

cloacal swabs at several rookeries between 75E (Davis Station) and

may be a dead-end host, or disease may be fatal and few birds

170E (the Ross Sea)

(18)(19)

. A serological survey of seven colonies

seroconvert and survive(23)(24)(25). Recently, a new arbovirus (Family


Togaviridae, genus Alphavirus) was isolated
from lice collected from elephant seals
(Mirounga leonina) on Macquarie Island(26).
Further characterisation is required for
these novel wildlife viruses.
Unclassified RNA virus: The significance
of an uncharacterised RNA virus isolated
from a pool of ticks (I uriae) from
rockhopper penguins on Campbell Island(14)
has not been established and antibodies
were not present in rockhopper or yelloweyed penguins. It is unlikely to be
associated with the species decline.
Birnaviruses: Infectious bursal disease
virus (IBDV) occurs as avirulent strains

Yellow-eyed penguins and a sealion on Enderby Island (photo Gareth W Jones)

and a highly virulent strain. Even the


avirulent strains can cause growth

found that infection was widespread close to Casey Station in

retardation and immunosuppression(27). Antibodies against IBDV

Australian territory and the French base of Dumont dUrville .

were detected in sera from emperor and Adlie penguins in

However, no seropositive birds were detected at 13 sites near the

Antarctica but there was no evidence of disease(28). Adlie chicks at a

(18)

Davis Station in Australian territory . It appears that titres may be

colony remote from human activity were seronegative, suggesting

elevated only transiently following infection and this may influence

that the virus may have been introduced into Antarctica with

seroprevalence data.

contaminated poultry products.

Based on antigenic and biochemical characteristics, the penguin

Herpesviruses: A herpesvirus caused laryngotracheitis-like

paramyxoviruses are distinct from those of other avian species but

infection in African black-footed penguins (Spheniscus demersus) at

some isolates share epitopes with PMV-1 isolates from the northern

a zoo in North America(29). The disease has not been reported for

hemisphere . The significance of infection for free-living birds is

any free-living penguin species.

(19)

(16)

unknown but the isolates were not pathogenic for chickens or blue
penguins(17). However, infection could predispose penguins to
opportunistic infections or confer immunity against pathogenic
viruses such as NDV. Antibodies against the latter were detected in
the serum of Adlie and royal penguins(15)(18). The significance of
NDV for free-living birds is unknown but mortalities have occurred

Suspected viral mortalities: In 1972, an unusual event killed 65%


of Adlie penguin chicks near Mawson Station, Antarctica(29).
Moribund chicks were in good body condition but were recumbent
and would stagger and fall forward when righted. The cause was not
established but it was not starvation as occurred in 1995(30).

among Adlie penguins(20) and in a captive king penguin(21). The

A mass mortality among gentoo penguins at Signey Island involved

Adlies were captured in 1973 near Scott Base in the Ross Sea and

several hundred birds that were in good body condition, but each

shipped to the United States where several birds died from an

had focal ulcers on the dorsal surface of the feet(31). No aetiology was

infection characterised as velogenic neurotropic in chickens . It

established.

(20)

was believed that infection was contracted in the wild because the
birds were maintained in quarantine.

page

In 1981, an unusual number of four- to five-week-old Adlie chicks


died on Petersen Island (near Casey Station). No clinical signs were

Surveillance 28(4) 2001

observed and no necropsies conducted. However, five of 55 adult


birds were seropositive for influenza antibodies(18). Although
unlikely, the virus may have been implicated.

Bacterial and fungal diseases


Enteric bacteria: Many bacteria have been isolated from free-living
penguins but only a few are pathogens(32)(33)(34). Five Salmonella
serotypes were isolated from Adlie penguins on Ross Island,
Antarctica, but were not associated with disease(35). Campylobacter
spp, with only minor sequence difference in 16sRNA from C jejuni
and C lari, were isolated from marine birds including apparently
healthy gentoo and macaroni penguins sampled on Bird Island,
South Georgia(36). Whether these enteric bacteria are normal flora of
penguins is not known. It is possible that bacteria were brought to
Antarctica or subantarctic islands on contaminated poultry
products and disseminated through penguin rookeries by scavengers
such as skuas and giant petrels. Migratory sea birds may also act as
vectors of infection to penguin species that are restricted to the
subantarctic or Antarctic(37).

Cause of mortality and incidental findings for


penguins in New Zealand, based on records on the
Wildlife Mortality Database (Huia) and from Hocken(13)
Diagnosis
Blue penguin
Yellow-eyed
penguin
Starvation
34 (13%)
15 (6%)
2
Starvation and parasitism1
Starvation and trauma
1 (0.004%)
1 (0.004%)
Starvation and neurological signs2
Trauma
Dogs
35 (14%)
Mustelids (ferrets)
20 (8%)
8 (3%)
Shark3
Vehicles
32 (13%)
1
Vandalism
10 (4%)
Traps
3 (1%)
Undetermined
27 (11%)
Wrecks (multiple starvation mortalities)4 8 (3%)
5 (2%)
Bacterial infection5
1
Plasmodium-like infection6
8 (3%)
Aspergillosis7
10 (4%)
Drowning8
Undetermined
36 (14%)
One blue penguin was under rehabilitation for seven days and at necropsy also
had mycotic pneumonia (Aspergillosis). The parasite burdens included some or
all of the following: Contracaecum sp nematodes in the proventriculus,
Tetrabothroid cestodes in the intestine, Renicola trematodiasis of the kidney,
intestinal and renal coccidiosis. One bird had haemorrhage from a
proventricular ulcer that was probably parasite-induced.
2
One blue penguin was reported to display neurological impairment but no
histological lesions were detected. The signs were possibly biotoxin-induced.
3
Inferred from linear lacerations in skin and shorn feathers(13).
4
The eight birds in this submission were juveniles found wrecked at the same
time on the Coromandel Peninsula.
5
Presumptive diagnosis based on gross and histological lesions.
6
Acute multifocal necrotising hepatitis, splenitis and myocarditis associated with
intracellular protozoa, species not determined.
7
Aspergillosis was the only significant finding reported.
8
Drowning diagnosed from the location of the carcass and postmortem finding
of fluid in lungs and air sacs(13).
1

Psittacosis: Antibodies against Chlamydiophila psittaci, the cause of


avian psittacosis, were found in emperor, rockhopper, royal, gentoo
and Adlie penguins(38)(39). There was no evidence of disease and the
origin and significance of infection are unknown.
Pasteurellosis: Pasteurella multocida of similar serotype to that
which causes avian cholera epidemics among North American
waterfowl was isolated from several septicaemic rockhopper
penguins on Campbell Island(14). Norway rats (Rattus norvegicus)
appear to be associated with the disease. The eradication of rats
from Campbell Island over the winter of 2001 may reduce the
prevalence of infection and establish whether it is implicated in the
rockhopper decline on the island.
Borreliosis: Antibodies against Borrelia burgdorferi, the cause of
Lyme disease in mammals, were detected in king penguins on the
Crozet Archipelago, French subantarctic(40). The bacteria were also
isolated from I uriae, a likely vector. Infection rarely results in
disease in birds but it is a potential zoonosis.
Aspergillosis: Caused by Aspergillus fumigatus, and rarely A flavus,
A niger or A terreus, aspergillosis is commonly diagnosed in captive
penguins but is rare in free-living birds. However, pulmonary
infection has been recorded in emaciated beach-cast juvenile little
blue penguins(15)(41). Lesions have also been reported in wrecked blue
penguins in New Zealand (see table) and in a yellow-eyed penguin
juvenile(42).

Metazoan and protozoan parasites


Helminths, ectoparasites, and protozoa of penguins have been
comprehensively reviewed and catalogued(45)(46)(47)(48).
Ectoparasites: Fleas, ticks, mites and biting lice occur on most
penguin species. The tick Ixodes uriae has a wide distribution on
seabirds in both hemispheres. Three other species have also been
recorded on blue penguins: I kohlsi, I auritulus and I eudyptidus.
Colony-nesting species have the highest parasite burdens and ticks
are most commonly found on chicks around the face, ear canals,
cloaca and feet. Species affected include emperor, Adlie, gentoo,
royal, rockhopper, blue and Snares crested penguins. Heavy
infestation may cause death of chicks and occasionally adults. Of

Aspergillus spp are ubiquitous and even found in soils and skua

greater significance may be the potential for transmission of viral

nests in Antarctica(43). A serological survey of penguins from New

infections. Paramyxoviruses and arboviruses were isolated from

Zealand (yellow-eyed and blue), the subantarctic (yellow-eyed and

I uriae from royal and king penguins on Macquarie Island(15)(23)(24).

rockhopper), and Antarctica (Adlie), found an inverse relationship

An uncharacterised enveloped RNA virus, morphologically but not

between seroprevalence and latitude; all blue penguins from Napier

antigenically similar to infectious bronchitis virus of chickens, was

were seropositive but none of the Adlies(44).

isolated from I uriae from Campbell Island rockhopper penguins(14).

Surveillance 28(4) 2001

page

Biting lice (Austrogoniodes sp) have been recorded on all species of

described from blood smears from free-living Fiordland crested

Antarctic and subantarctic penguins except gentoo and chinstrap

penguins(53), is transmitted by blackflies (Austrosimulium spp) and is

penguins(45)(46). Fleas (Parapsyllus sp) are also common in the

probably not pathogenic. It was not found in blood smears from 25

subantarctic and temperate zones and have been found on blue,

Snares crested penguins and one erect-crested penguin on the

rockhopper, gentoo, macaroni, Magellanic, and yellow-eyed

Snares(53). Trypanosoma eudyptulae was described from smears from

penguins. Fleas need a suitable nest environment and spend only

blue penguins in southeastern Tasmania(54). The intermediate host

part of their life on the birds. Lice and fleas are of little pathogenic

was not identified but ticks were proposed. Infection appears to

importance but numbers may be increased on birds that are

cause no disease in penguins.

debilitated and not preening properly . They may also transmit


(41)

viruses.

Malaria: Avian malaria caused by Plasmodium relictum is an


important cause of mortality among captive penguins in North

Helminths: Cestodes, nematodes, trematodes, and acanthocephalans

America and Europe(55), and also among free-living blue penguins in

are common in most penguin species. Blue penguins in North

Australia(56) and African black-footed penguins(57)(58). Infection in the

Otago had lower than expected burdens . Four species of

latter lasts for life and stress such as oiling or transportation may

Contracaecum (gastric nematodes) have been recorded, and may be

induce recrudescence(59)(60). Parasitaemia underestimates infection

associated with erosion and ulceration leading to haemorrhage.

but an enzyme-immunoassay detected a high seroprevalence (up to

Infection rates in South Island yellow-eyed penguins were high for

100%) in yellow-eyed penguins on Banks Peninsula, Otago

chicks and moderate for adults but parasite burdens were low and

Peninsula, Catlins, Codfish Island, Enderby Island (the Aucklands),

no pathology was observed(13)(45). Although nematodes probably do

and Campbell Island(61)(62). Only 10% of yellow-eyed penguins

not directly contribute to the population declines observed for

sampled on Stewart Island had P r spheniscidae parasitaemia(57) and

several New Zealand penguin species, they may be a factor(6)(41)(49)(50).

none of 189 blood smears from 83 free-living yellow-eyed penguins

(13)

Cestodes of the genus Tetrabothrius occur in the intestines of blue,


emperor, king, gentoo, Adlie, rockhopper and Magellanic penguins.
Their life cycle is unknown but it may involve euphausiid

on Banks Peninsula had demonstrable haemoparasites (S


McDonald, personal communication).
Despite the apparently high level of exposure of yellow-eyed

crustaceans as intermediate hosts . Acanthocephalans are rarely

penguins to Plasmodium sp, the incidence of clinical disease appears

reported from marine birds but comprised 1.3% of helminths in a

to be low. The cause of the deaths of 150 adult penguins on Banks

sample of 20 yellow-eyed penguin chicks(49). Corynosoma sp has also

Peninsula during the summer of 1989-90 was not established(42).

been reported for gentoo penguins(48). Both are an unlikely cause of

Avian malaria was suggested as the aetiology based on elevated

significant disease among penguins.

antibody titres in plasma from dead birds(61). However, the

(51)

investigators found no histological lesions characteristic of malaria

Several trematode species reside in the liver, gall bladder, and


intestines of penguins(46). Most are probably well tolerated but the
hepatic fluke Mawsonotrema eudyptulae contributes to the mortality
of juvenile blue penguins periodically wrecked in Victoria and New

and proposed that acute intoxication by a marine algal neurotoxin


was more likely, based on clinical signs, pathology and
environmental conditions (J Gill, personal communication).

Zealand(5)(6)(41)(50)(52). Trematodes may exacerbate the effects of

Whatever the cause of that event, a recent case on Otago Peninsula

starvation in recently fledged birds. Heavy burdens of flukes were

shows that avian malaria has the potential to cause mortality among

noted in the kidneys of wrecked blue penguins in Northland, but

yellow-eyed penguins. In February 2001, a juvenile in good body

with minimal pathology(6). The species was not identified but it is

condition was found dead without gross lesions. On histology, there

probably of the family Echinostomatidae.

was extensive acute necrosis and inflammation of the myocardium,

Coccidiosis: Oocysts were detected in the faeces of free-living


yellow-eyed penguins in Otago but the species was not determined
because they could not be sporulated(49). The low prevalence of

liver and spleen associated with intracytoplasmic Plasmodium-like


parasites(63). Similar pathology was also described for a captive
Fiordland crested penguin in Australia(56).

infection suggests that it is not significant. Both intestinal and renal

No haematozoa have been detected in blood smears from king,

coccidiosis have been recorded in wrecked blue penguins in

royal, and gentoo penguins on Macquarie Island, king and macaroni

Victoria(41)(52). Oocysts were found in faeces of five of 48 birds but on

penguins from Heard Island, and Adlie and emperor penguins

histology, schizonts were detected in the intestinal mucosa of only

from Antarctica(64)(51)(65). Serology confirmed the absence of infection

one . By contrast, 64% of birds had chronic interstitial nephritis

from Adlie penguins on Ross Island, Antarctica, suggesting that a

and ureteritis associated with coccidia. However, the lesions were

suitable vector is absent from polar latitudes(61). However, at least

mild and focal and probably of little pathological significance .

some penguins that inhabit the subantarctic islands appear to be

Intestinal coccidiosis was reported for wrecked blue penguins in

exposed. King and gentoo penguins on the Kerguelen and Crozet

Northland but lesions were not described(6).

Islands in the subantarctic had antibodies as did yellow-eyed

(41)

(52)

Haematozoa: A novel blood parasite, Leucocytozoon tawaki,

page

penguins on the Aucklands and Campbell Island, but rockhoppers

Surveillance 28(4) 2001

on Campbell Island did not(61)(62). Suitable vectors are probably

Mortality in New Zealand

absent from Antarctica but may be present in the subantarctic.

Since 1991, diagnostic laboratories have received, and entered on

Alternatively, penguins that breed on subantarctic islands may be

the wildlife pathology database (Huia), 34 submissions of blue

exposed to vectors if they migrate to lower latitudes outside the

penguins and four of yellow-eyed penguins. Each case was re-

breeding season.

evaluated for this review. An additional 213 blue penguins from

High seroprevalence of malaria was reported in captive blue

northern Otago were examined between 1994 and 1998(13). The

penguins in Napier(61) and in free-living birds from Codfish Island,

diagnoses from both sources are summarised in the table.

to the west of Stewart Island(62). Mortality has not been reported in


New Zealand but does occur among blue penguins in Australia(56).
Other protozoa: A blue penguin that died of toxoplasmosis while
under rehabilitation in Tasmania had been fed on uncooked meat
and held in a household with several cats(66). A tick-borne
piroplasmid, presumed to be Babesia sp, has also been found in blue
penguins in Australia where it causes mild regenerative anaemia in
juveniles (Cunningham cited by Clark and Kerry(46)).

Non-infectious causes of mortality


Starvation
Juvenile blue penguins appear susceptible to periodic mass
mortalities that may reflect fluctuations in prey availability.
Rockhopper penguins may also be susceptible to fluctuations in
prey availability that are influenced by the El Nio-Southern
Oscillation(67). Blue penguin wrecks have been recorded in New
Zealand since the early 1940s(68). During two large wrecks in
Northland in July-August 1973 and April-May 1974, there was a
hundredfold increase in the number of beach-cast birds(6). Most
were immature females in poor body condition with an empty
gastrointestinal tract, depleted fat reserves, muscle atrophy, and
moderate parasite burdens. It was concluded that death resulted
from starvation exacerbated by parasitism and bad weather, as was
proposed for a wreck of mixed-age blue penguins on the Victorian
coast between December 1977 and June 1978(41). A wreck of blue
penguins in South Australia and Victoria in March-April 1986 also
involved emaciated and parasitised juvenile birds that washed
ashore following southerly storms(50).

Conclusions
Most of the disease surveillance on penguins has occurred in the
Antarctic and subantarctic. The focus has been on potentially exotic
diseases that may have been introduced through human traffic to
these once remote regions. The risk has been minimised by a
protocol on Environmental Protection (Madrid, 1998) as part of the
Antarctic Treaty, 1991. This banned the importation of live poultry

During the summer of 1989-90 a catastrophic event claimed at least

and other birds into the Antarctic and requires the inspection of

half of the adult breeding population of yellow-eyed penguins on

dressed poultry for Newcastle disease and tuberculosis. However,

the Otago Peninsula(42). Moribund birds were neurologically

the international regulations are less strict than national quarantine

impaired and dead birds were in good body condition with no

measures and there are no protocols to control outbreaks of disease

evidence of infectious disease, suggesting that marine algal

should they occur in Antarctica(74). In New Zealand, the Department

biotoxins may have been implicated (J Gill, personal

of Conservation bans the transportation of poultry or poultry

communication). Over the past two decades marine dinoflagellate

products, apart from eggs, to the subantarctic islands. Tourist vessels

blooms have claimed a variety of marine vertebrates worldwide

do carry such products but are not permitted to discharge organic

ranging from fish and sea birds(69), to pinnipeds(70), sirenians(71), and

waste in the vicinity of islands. However, the risks posed by tourist

cetaceans(72). Blooms of neurotoxin-producing diatoms occur

and fishing vessel traffic are largely unknown.

frequently in New Zealand waters and have the potential to cause


neurological signs and death in penguins eating prey that has
accumulated the toxin(73). Laboratory assays to detect these biotoxins
are now available in New Zealand.

Clearly more surveillance is required for penguins in New Zealand


territories. Of the four endemic species, two are endangered
(yellow-eyed and Fiordland) and a third (erect-crested) is in
decline. There have been no studies on disease or mortality factors
among Snares crested penguins, Fiordland crested penguins, or

Surveillance 28(4) 2001

page

erect-crested penguins, apart from scattered records of parasite


occurrence. Studies on yellow-eyed penguins have also been limited

(15)

to serology for avian malaria and aspergillosis, and opportunistic


sampling of wrecked birds. The alarming decline of rockhopper
penguins on Campbell Island prompted a limited disease

(16)

investigation in the mid 1980s(14). No firm conclusions could be


drawn other than the suggestion that avian cholera was probably

(17)

not implicated. A novel enveloped RNA virus was isolated but not
fully characterised and its pathogenicity not established. Research is

(18)

continuing into the associated environmental factors but disease is

(19)

not included (D Thompson, personal communication).


(20)

At the least, baseline serology should be conducted on all endemic


and native species breeding in New Zealand territories. A serum
bank should also be established to facilitate retrospective studies if

(21)
(22)

an outbreak of a suspected exotic disease occurs in future. Without


establishing what diseases may be endemic, it is not possible to

(23)

speculate further on the disease risks from introduction of exotic


birds or vectors or even from domestic avian species.
(24)

Acknowledgements
S McDonald, Otago University, provided unpublished data on avian
malaria seroprevalence in yellow-eyed penguins. J Gill, LABNET

(25)

Invermay Ltd; D Thompson, NIWA; D Wharton, Otago University;


and A Hocken, Oamaru, for personal communications. Cases on
Huia were contributed by M Alley, C Twentyman, R Norman, S

(26)

Cork, and P Duignan. Thanks to R Norman, J Cockrem and R


Pilgrim for reprints and copies of publications.

References
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Penguin Books Ltd, Auckland. Pp 225-34, 1996.
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Press, San Diego, 1990.
(3) Richdale LE. A brief study of the history of the yellow-eyed penguin. Emu 40,
265-87, 1941.
(4) Richdale LE. Yellow-eyed penguin. In: Robertson CJR (ed), Readers Digest
Complete Book of New Zealand Birds. P 42. Readers Digest, Sydney, 1985.
(5) Powelsland RG. Seabirds found dead on New Zealand beaches in 1982 and a
review of penguin recoveries since 1960. Notornis 31, 155-71, 1984.
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Padraig J Duignan
New Zealand Wildlife Health Centre
Institute of Veterinary, Animal and Biological Sciences
Massey University
Private Bag 11 222, Palmerston North
Email: P.J.Duignan@massey.ac.nz

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