Friday, March 16, 2007

25 Penguins Die of Toxin at Sea World on the Gold Coast in Australia: Proof Again that Zoos and Captive Situations Unnatural and Deadly

The killing of Clara at the St. Louis Zoo that was just motioned in the prior article (see

just adds weight to the argument that captivity WILL lead to premature and painful death for captive animals. Essentially, this toxin was related only to captive situations. As stated, “The toxin, which has yet to be properly identified, attacks the brain, kidneys and liver of penguins.” In other words, an extremely painful death.

This also follow the incident this month of the killing of a Jaguar and zoo worker. You can read about that at

For more on the health issues caused by putting large animals like elephants in zoos see


Penguin deaths put zoos in spotlight

March 16, 2007 - 2:00PM

The death of 25 penguins at Sea World on the Gold Coast has reignited debate over the treatment of animals in Australia's zoos and parks.

The popular Gold Coast theme park is planning to rebuild its population of fairy penguins after a mystery toxin killed 25 of them in the past week.

The toxin, which has yet to be properly identified, attacks the brain, kidneys and liver of penguins.

The birds became ill on Thursday last week and by last weekend, 25 of the 37 penguins at the park were dead.

Trevor Long, marine sciences director at Sea World, described the deaths of the fairy, or little, penguins at the popular theme park as a "sad day for all".

"This is a very unfortunate event and there's a lot of lessons to be learnt from many zoos and aquariums all around Australia.

"We think it's a freak occurrence but until we get more information and identify what the toxin is, we won't really know."

But the incident has raised questions about the safety and treatment of animals in captivity.

Wildlife Queensland policy and campaigns manager Des Boyland says the death of the penguins was a "very unfortunate accident".

Mr Boyland, who worked closely with Sea World when he worked for Queensland's Environmental Protection Agency, said the park had some of the best procedures for handling animals in the world.

But he said like players in any other industry, there were "good ones and bad ones".

"I would prefer to see animals in the wild, but there is a case for zoos and zoos can play a role, provided they are not driven by commercial gain and that they do positive things for the environment," Mr Boyland said.

He says parks such as Sea World and the late Steve Irwin's Australia Zoo, on the Sunshine Coast, were world-class operations.

"Steve's major contribution would be his extremely generous contribution to wildlife protection in the wild," Mr Boyland said.

"Sea World has an international reputation for animal rescue."

But there are concerns government environmental agencies and the RSPCA do not have the resources to regularly monitor zoos and animal parks

"The EPA barely have enough resources to satisfy their statutory obligations," Mr Boyland said.

"The RSPCA are very good but they are under a lot of financial stress and strain."

Zoos hit the headlines last year when Sydney's Taronga faced a battle with animal rights activists over four Asian elephants brought in from Thailand.

Campaigners launched a series of protests and legal challenges in a bid to stop the endangered elephants - part of an Australian-first breeding program - coming into the country, arguing it was cruel to keep them in zoos.

At the time, the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), RSPCA Australia and Humane Society International (HSI) called on the public to monitor the zoo.

Australian Democrats deputy leader Andrew Bartlett, a long-time animal rights campaigner, says the federal government should stop issuing permits for the export and import of animals that are not suited to the zoos they are bound for.

"This includes Australian native animals like kangaroos and koalas being exported to unsuitable zoos in Asia, or the import of Asian elephants into Australia," Senator Bartlett says.

"Governments can also implement comprehensive legislation that covers the welfare of the animal in zoo and park settings and they can make sure that the law is enforced."

Senator Bartlett says it is unfortunate that zoos had "historically poor standards".

"I believe that we need to work on reinventing zoos - ensuring that they all operate at a high standard that replicates natural habitats and circumstances as closely as possible," he says.

In response to public concerns, the quality of zoos and parks is about to get a boost with the peak body for operators set to launch a new accreditation system.

Australasian Zoos and Aquariums Association executive director Jonathan Wilcken said the new standards, to be launched in New Zealand next week, would include periodic audits of the organisation's 74 members.

"It's helpful to have a process which specifically aims at setting up best practice targets, and moving towards making them minimum," Mr Wilcken said.

In any case, zoo operators argue Australia has some of the toughest regulation in the world, with both state and federal governments setting standards.

"We are regarded in the international zoo community as one of the most regulated in the world," Mr Wilcken said.

As Sea World examines its specific problem, Senator Bartlett says questions should be raised about why penguins are allowed in a park in a subtropical environment like southern Queensland.

"It's hard to see how the way they are kept and displayed encourages a greater appreciation of these animals or their natural habitats," Senator Bartlett says.

"There is no environmental need for these animals to be kept in captivity.

"The purpose for doing so is little more than entertainment.

"We could and should be doing better than this in the 21st century."

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