Paradise Park

Wildlife Sanctuary • Cornwall

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Penguin’s x-ray showed why she was limping, and more…

Keepers noticed that a female penguin at Paradise Park was limping, so quickly notified the Park’s vet Paul Hall.

Report below by vet Paul Hall.

There is a group of Humboldt’s Penguins (Spheniscus humboldti) at Paradise Park including breeding pairs, youngsters and some veteran birds.

The Keepers had noted that one of the breeding females was limping and asked me to examine her. There was nothing obvious on the clinical exam, so a course of anti-inflammatories was started and the keepers asked to monitor for a response.

After a course of medication, she had shown minimal improvement, so it was decided that we should take her to perform a radiograph.

Penguin 2 Houdini in the create

First, she was weighed so that accurate calculations for medication could be performed.

Penguin 3 Houdini being weighed

A medication to reduce anxiety was then administered slowly via her nostrils. This medication also reduces the diving reflex. This reflex causes breath holding when their beak is touched by water when diving, or when a mask is used to induce anaesthesia. By reducing this reflex anaesthesia can be achieved more quickly.

Penguin 4 Houdini receiving treatment

Once she was anaesthetised a tube was placed in her trachea so that oxygen and anaesthetic gas could continue to keep her asleep while x-rays were taken.

Penguin 5 Houdini receiving treatment

Gently taped to the table, X-rays were taken of the leg but also of her whole body as a precautionary measure to assess her health as penguins can get respiratory diseases or eat inappropriate objects.

Penguin 6 Houdini prepared for xray

She had no evidence of respiratory disease, but an egg can clearly be seen. She had also eaten a lot of gravel – this will pass through without a problem and was probably ingested in her search for calcium while producing her egg, even though the penguin food is already supplemented with vitamins and minerals.

Penguin 7 Xray of Houdini

A piece of bone could be seen to have been chipped from her lower tarsometatarsus (a bone in the lower leg). It was not a fracture that would affect her ability to walk long term but would be uncomfortable. Surgery would be an option to remove the bone fragment but could cause further damage so it was decided that she would initially continue rest and pain relief and perform surgery if still didn’t respond.

Penguin 8 Houdini Xray 2

She recovered from the anaesthetic rapidly and was returned to the penguin enclosure two hours later. The next day she laid the egg and started to incubate it, which meant she was resting very effectively. A week later when she was examined, she was walking with no perceptible limp, so surgery looks less likely to be needed.

She will be monitored closely for any future changes.

Find out more about our Humboldt’s Penguins HERE 

You can watch our HD live webcam HERE

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