Posted on January 13

Calgary, AB – The Calgary Zoo is announcing the investigation into the sudden loss of seven Humboldt penguins during the night of December 7, 2016 is now complete. After an exhaustive investigation that could find no conclusive cause, the zoo is changing how it cares for penguins in the back areas of Penguin Plunge.

“We conducted detailed interviews with everyone relevant to the situation and consulted with outside penguin behaviour experts, but we could find no definitive evidence as to what caused this incident,” says Jamie Dorgan, Director Animal Care, Calgary Zoo. “Penguins normally roost quietly throughout the night; it appears that something, perhaps unusual behaviour within the colony, frightened the penguins during the night which caused them to suddenly jump into one of the two pools in the holding area; unfortunately seven were unable to get out safely. It was extraordinary and tragic.”

Despite the lack of conclusive evidence, the zoo will make a number of precautionary changes to how penguins are kept in the back holding area to avoid a similar situation from happening again:

  • Restricting access to pools in back holding areas when staff are not present and the number of birds are over a specific threshold (this change was implemented immediately following the December 8 incident);
  • Setting a maximum capacity for the number of birds that can be held in the holding areas;
  • Investigating making physical changes to the holding pools; and
  • Ensuring continuous ambient lighting at night in the back holding areas.

On December 8, 2016, seven Humboldt penguins were found deceased in one of the two pools in the back holding area of Penguin Plunge. The 22 birds were in the back area as construction work was taking place in the building. During the evening, penguins will usually roost and sleep, with little activity taking place. The zoo’s Veterinary Team completed necropsies on all the birds and the results have determined they died as a result of drowning.

The remaining 15 Humboldt penguins are in good health and remain in Penguin Plunge alongside three other penguin species – kings, gentoos and rockhopper penguins.

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Jamie Dorgan, Director Animal Care, is available for interviews upon request.


Trish Exton-Parder                     Larissa Mark
Lead, Media Relations             Manager, Communications
Calgary Zoo                             Calgary Zoo
Phone: 403.232.9381                 Phone: 403.294.7677
Mobile: 403.371.9075                Mobile: 403.998.0478
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