Humboldt Penguin
Humboldt Penguins[Representational Image]creative commons

A Humboldt Penguin brought along with seven others to Veermata Jijabai Bhosale Udyan and Zoo (commonly known as Byculla zoo) in Mumbai from Seoul less than three months ago, died on Sunday after a week-long illness. The incident occurred despite animal rights activists repeatedly issuing warnings and even sending protest letters to Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC).

Though zoo officials have not yet declared the cause of death, as they are awaiting the post-mortem report, activists have advised the zoo to make arrangements to return the remaining penguins– three male and four females to Coex Aquarium at Seoul, South Korea, from where they were brought on July 26 in order to save them.

The purchasing of the penguins was part of a multi-crore project which included funds for setting up a special temperature-controlled enclosure to make their environment more hospitable and separate funds for the maintenance of the birds for the next five years.

A release issued by the BMC on Sunday said a female Humboldt Penguin, weighing about three kg was examined by a vet, (who had experience handling Humboldt Penguins during a stint in New Zealand), after it appeared dull and unwell.

Diagnostic tests were carried out and appropriate treatment started. But the bird did not respond well to the treatment and subsequent tests showed elevated liver values. An exotic bird specialist was consulted and the treatment was also modified but the bird died on Sunday morning.

The post-mortem was carried out at Mumbai Veterinary College in Parel. "The other seven Humboldt Penguins are healthy and under constant observation," the release said.

The BMC said the birds were kept in a quarantine facility at the zoo and temperature had been maintained between 16 and 18 degree Celsius as per international standards.

Activists, however, said the zoo did not have the proper infrastructure to handle these birds and had no reason to bring them to Mumbai in the first place. "We had objected to getting penguins here as the Mumbai climate was not suitable for these birds," Sunish Subramanian, secretary, Plant and Animals Welfare Society, was quoted saying to The Hindu.

The activist also alleged that despite birds being quarantined, certain people were allowed to enter, and that the caretaking staff were not technically equipped to handle them. The remaining birds should be returned so that they don't meet a similar fate, he added.