Wildlife coming into a human environment for care and rehabilitation are exposed to stress and/or reduced immune response from their original ill-health (e.g. infections or wounds).
They then subsequently experience increased stress from situations such as being handled, during transportation and when in the hospital environment. Exposure to chronic stress reduces their immune response further, allowing pathogens such as Aspergillus to cause disease more easily.
Aspergillus is a common cause of disease in penguins and prevention requires optimal husbandry as well as prophylactic anti-fungal treatments. Veterinary assessment of these cases is vital and is required prior to the use of these medications.
After initial triage, it is important to provide these patients with optimal husbandry including correcting hydration status, starting optimal nutrition and providing an environment with appropriate temperature, humidity, ventilation and lighting (intensity and duration). It is also important to keep noise to a low-level and house the birds separate to other animals that the birds perceive as predator.
With gentle care and limited interactions, many patients get used to being in a human environment and their stress levels can decrease. However, assessing whether individual
patients have adapted to their environment is difficult. Many penguin patients will attempt to hide their stress/ill-health (as part of a natural predator-avoidance strategy) resulting in
them only exhibiting most of their abnormal behavior when people have left the room. Due to this, camera systems can be a useful method of assessing the true behavior of avian
patients whilst in care.
Additional information about Aspergillosis, signs and treatment is available for WReNNZ rehabilitation members via the PDF in the Members Area.
Written by WReNNZ Member and Wildlife Veterinary Nurse Mikaylie Wilson and Dr James Chatterton from Auckland Zoo