Chapter 3: Clean Bills of Health

August 2, 2017

Veterinary staff working with an African penguin, plus zoo branding for "All My Penguins"

Written By

Sunny Nelson

Hope B. McCormick Curator of Birds

Always curious, Erik was the first one through the door. He waddled right up to the keepers and their cohort: the vets. Of course, he didn’t know it was check-up day.

All of Lincoln Park Zoo’s African penguins have an annual visit with the veterinarian. In the above photo, Dr. Lester E. Fisher Director of Veterinary Medicine Kathryn Gamble, D.V.M., M.S., Dipl ACZM, Dip ECZM (ZHM), uses a stethoscope to listen to Erik’s chest to ensure the heart is pumping strong, and air is moving smoothly through his lungs and air sacs. Gamble says, “This second structure is present in birds to maximize efficiency of presenting oxygen to the blood.”

The full scope of the penguins’ annual exams included physical assessment, vaccinations, and blood collection. During this process veterinarians looked for healthy skin; clear eyes; sturdy and unblemished feet; and silky feathers kept nice and oily courtesy of the uropygial gland, near the base of the tail. They also give some of the birds a much-needed pedicure as those nails are sharp!

Gamble also noted that, “when housed outside penguins can be very susceptible to avian malaria, which is carried by mosquitoes. It is important to prevent them from becoming infected, so during mosquito season the penguins receive twice monthly prophylaxis as prevention.” Safety first.

First one in = first one done. Erik finished up and Preston and Aje walked in next—typical behavior for these two birds with bold penguin-alities! And slowly but surely, everyone completed their examination.

So what’s the verdict? According to Gamble: “Our new colony was formed from a variety of sources—some birds having been housed inside solely, some outdoors seasonally, and some outdoors all the time like at Lincoln Park Zoo—and each came with their own health history. At this time, we have reviewed our blended penguin family and they are overall quite healthy.”

Spotted This Week

So, Robben used to be paired with Pilchard. But she left him for Preston, the dominant male in the colony. Lead Keeper Chris Fuehrmeyer says Pilchard has been acting, understandably, a little out of sorts. So he’s getting by with a little help from a friend. Pilchard and Phil have a blossoming bromance and are nigh inseparable these days! Stop by Robert and Mayari Pritzker Penguin Cove to see them preening and spending time together.

Support the Penguins

Want to contribute to a healthy colony? Take a look at Lincoln Park Zoo’s Wish List to provide special enrichment for the crew!