In Depth

UK zoo forced to use model penguins after national shortage

Outbreak of avian malaria means models will likely stay at Telford zoo well into 2019

A zoo in Shropshire has been forced to fill its brand new penguin exhibit with models, as a national shortage of the birds means it is unable to obtain the real thing.

Telford Exotic Zoo, in Priorslee, “spent months building a penguin enclosure and was expecting a delivery of Humboldt penguins this summer”, says the BBC.

But the zoo's owner Scott Adams said a recent avian malaria outbreak means they cannot get any.

He told the broadcaster: “We've just timed it really badly”.

Adams added: “Unfortunately over the last couple of years there was a really bad case of penguin malaria that swept through the UK and lots of zoos, if not most zoos, have lost a lot of penguins.”

“Now, most of the big zoos are getting their penguins back so any spare penguins that would have come to us from the surplus lists or from the stud books from other zoos are now not available at the moment,” he continued.

“If we had been looking for penguins a few years ago we would probably have already had them by now,” he said.

Adams revealed the zoo may not be able to get penguins until next year and as the enclosure at Telford is so specialised for the Humboldt penguins, it can't be adapted for other animals and the models will have to remain.

Much like in its human form, avian malaria is caused by a parasite carried by mosquitoes that invades red blood cells and other tissues, such as the liver, spleen, lungs and brain.

In 2016 an entire population of penguins was wiped out at Exmoor Zoo by a “quick and devastating” outbreak of the disease.

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