Malaria Outbreak In London Zoo

Six London Zoo penguins died from a Malaria outbreak this summer. Photo credit: Kirsty Wigglesworth/AP

Dori Edwards, Global Animal

Zookeepers at the London Zoo claim to be very cautious of penguin susceptibility to Malaria. Unfortunately, their extensive preventative measures failed to protect the zoo’s penguins from an outbreak this summer. 

Six London Zoo penguins died from a Malaria outbreak this summer. Photo Credit: Kirsty Wigglesworth/AP

In August of this year, six London Zoo Penguins were exposed to mosquito bites that transferred the disease to the avian animals.

According to the UK zoo, the birds in the zoo are “endemic” to Malaria. This means the likelihood of contraction is great and daily procedures are performed to counteract the increased probability.

Zookeepers give morning medication and plant lavender for nests. Lavender is a homeopathic remedy against mosquitos. 

However, the precautionary attempts were not efficient enough to protect against the flourishing parasite population. The summer weather was the wettest recorded in the past 100 years and created “perfect conditions for mosquito numbers.”

Also, according to Dr Stephen Larcombe, who studies the disease at Oxford University’s Edward Grey Institute, “In zoos it is quite likely that mosquitoes will be around.” 

London Zoo spokespersons assure that the penguins cannot pass on malaria to humans or other birds and that the remaining penguins are “healthy and well.”  

This incident is a direct result of the unnatural process of not only holding wildlife captive, but taking the animals far away from their natural habitat. According to Larcomb, “Generally where they live is cold and windy so they don’t get infected very often in their native conditions.”

Larcombe’s statement is apt evidence that zoos create harmful conditions. If the penguins remained in their indigenous environment, they would have been less likely to contract the disease and die. 

This news also comes after a ground-breaking study revealing that approximately 75 percent of British zoos, aquariums, petting farms, and sanctuaries do not meet all of the animal welfare standards.

The study is the first to analyze zoo inspections since the Zoo Licensing Act went into effect in 1984, requiring zoos in England, Wales, and Scotland to meet the basic standards for animal care, conservation, and safety.

Findings revealed that 76 percent of the zoos are breaking at least one basic requirement, while only 24 percent of zoos have met all of the animal welfare standards.

While the London Zoo is an unfit climate for penguins, animal advocates believe this fact alone violates the Zoo Licensing Act by not fulfilling the most basic animal welfare requirement of all.