ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – The BioPark said it doesn’t know how one of its new penguins has already died.
James the King Penguin had been in Albuquerque for just eight days. BioPark Director Dr. Baird Fleming is hopeful the other 31 penguins that are currently acclimating to the new Penguin Chill Exhibit before its opening are still healthy, but they just don’t know for sure yet.
“They go through a rigorous screening process…before they’re shipped, and once they get here, we closely monitor them so we don’t anticipate that it was an infectious disease, but again, we don’t want to speculate,” Fleming said Monday.
He said staff had been closely monitoring James because he was losing weight since he arrived at the BioPark. They believed he was doing better because he was keeping food down for two days leading up to his death on Thursday.
The batch of 10 King Penguins came from Sea World Orlando a couple of weeks ago as part of a species recovery program. Fleming said this loss should not impact the zoo’s accreditation.
“The only way that it would was if there was gross negligence, and that’s probably one of the few things I can say is that I can guarantee that there was no gross negligence,” Fleming stated.
Fleming said moving forward, staff will continue to monitor the 31 remaining penguins closely as well as the conditions in the Penguin Chill exhibit. They ordered a necropsy for James but said it’s possible that might not show the cause of death.
James was 2 years old and BioPark staff said penguins typically live 15 to 20 years. Sea World Orlando will not be replacing James.
The BioBark said this incident will not further delay the exhibit opening that the BioPark will announce later this week. The Penguin Chill Exhibit is already almost a year and a half behind schedule.