Humboldt penguins


Remembering ‘Bianca’ and ‘Rio’

August 21, 2023 | 2 minute read

The health and well-being of the animals in our care is one of our top priorities. However, even with access to the best nutrition, exceptional habitats and exemplary medical care, there are occasions when Mother Nature has other plans.

Towards the end of August, two Humboldt penguins in our care sadly died from avian malaria. ‘Bianca’ (11 years old) and her son ‘Rio’ (1 year old) both succumbed to the illness. Avian malaria is a mosquito-borne disease of birds transmitted through bites of infected mosquitos. Although these deaths were unexpected as all of our Humboldt penguins have been on preventive medication every summer for the past decade, the disease is widely known to affect many species of birds and is one of the most significant causes of mortality in penguins, under human care and in the wild, with mortality rates ranging from 50-80%.

Following the sudden loss of Bianca and Rio, the Animal Care, Health & Welfare began testing the entire Humboldt penguin colony for signs of infection. The unfortunate reality is that avian malaria does not always show up in blood work in advance and if found, the treatment is not always successful in penguins. None of our other birds were positive on their bloodwork.

Bianca hatched at SeaWorld San Diego in May 2012. She joined the Wilder Institute/Calgary Zoo family in September 2013, so she lived most of her life with us in Penguin Plunge. Rio hatched here at the Wilder Institute/Calgary Zoo in June 2022 and was the offspring of the late Bianca and her mate ‘Chango’ (7 years old).

We are deeply saddened by these unexpected losses. Please keep our Animal Care, Health & Welfare team in your thoughts during this difficult time.

Humboldt penguins, ‘Bianca’ (left) and ‘Rio’ (right)