The H5N1 strain of bird flu killed over 200 penguin chicks and a few adults, according to the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research (SCAR).
It’s the first time the virus has been found in gentoo penguins, raising concern that it could spread among Antarctica’s huge penguin colonies.
On January 19, researchers found about 35 penguins dead in the Falkland Islands in the South Atlantic. The samples taken from the dead penguins returned positive for the H5N1 strain of bird flu virus, said veterinarian Ralph Vanstreels, who works with SCAR.
The Falkland Islands government told news agency Reuters that many gentoo penguins died from bird flu. As of January 30, “there are over 200 chicks dead alongside a handful of adults”, said government spokesperson Sally Heathman.
The deaths confirm that gentoo penguins are vulnerable to bird flu, which has destroyed bird populations worldwide in recent months.
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