Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Famous penguin in love triangle, falls ill with aspergillosis

The saga continues as San Francisco Zoo’s penguin - Harry the gay-turned-straight penguin became gravely ill, with his penguin lady-friend loyally by his side.
Weeks after the saga of Harry and his former male companion, Pepper, made Time Magazine’s top 10 breakups of 2009, Harry is being treated for this life-threatening-respiratory infection, zoo officials said.
Harry, a Magellanic penguin, reached international aclaim this summer after he left Pepper, for the female penguin Linda. Harry and Pepper had shared a burrow since 2003 and zookeepers considered the same-sex pair one of their most devoted and stable penguin partnerships.
When the recently widowed Linda took an interest in Harry things turned nasty and Linda attacked Pepper. The three had to be separated and Pepper was sent to a bachelor pad at the zoo’s Avian Conservation Center for the rest of the breeding season. Report by Katie Worth, SFExaminer

Then, about two weeks ago, zookeepers noticed Harry coughing and watched his appetite diminishing. He was diagnosed with aspergillosis, a serious respiratory infection that can be fatal for penguins and all birds and animals. Veterinarians have moved Harry to a pool at the Avian Conservation Center for treatment, and have brought Linda along to keep him company during his convalescence.
"Linda’s just there for companionship," said Mr Edell the zoo's curator of birds. "Penguins are such social animals and we don’t want Harry feeling more stressed from being alone in addition to the stress of being sick."
So far, Harry seems to be responding to treatment, but Edell said it’s still too soon to say whether he’ll bounce back.

Aspergillosis is a rare disease in free-living penguins but in captive birds can be associated with stress, change in habitat, handling or injury. An anatomical factor which increases penguin's susceptibility to aspergillosis is the lack of an epiglottis which may aid fungal penetration to the lower respiratory tract. Penguins also lack a diaphragm making the cough reflex difficult. For more information on penguins and aspergillosis visit here.
Harry is hopefully doing well on antifungal treatment and we wish him a speedy recovery

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