Yoyo the macaroni penguin is well known for hanging around the public walkways and greeting guests.
Zoo vet Christa van Wessem: “He was given the name Yoyo due to his start in life – he was hand reared as it was touch-and-go at first if he would survive. He has been very up and down with his health since. In October last year he became unwell again and since then we’ve taken loads of blood samples and done some x-rays to find out what was wrong, but we wanted to have a better look, so we did a CT scan.”
The clinical signs and blood results suggested a fungal infection, so he was put on treatment. Christa: “There was some improvement but not enough, so radiographs were taken in February, which again suggested fungal issues. We gave his keepers options for further diagnostics, as this infection is very difficult to diagnose for sure, and they chose the CT.”
The scan was taken at Abbotskerswell Veterinary Centre. A computerised tomography (CT or CAT scan) uses x-rays to create detailed computer images of the inside of a body. The scan was performed by John Harvey, Veterinary Endoscopy and Surgery Referral Clinician and Clinical Director at Abbotskerswell Veterinary Centre.
The resulting images were examined and interpreted by external specialists; they detected some abnormalities that suggested heart issues, including the suspicion of a slightly enlarged heart – a diagnosis based on data the radiologist had from other species of penguin.
“It is uncommon to diagnose and therefore treat heart issues in birds. There is still fairly little published on the subject, although it is a developing field.” Yoyo is now on the sort of medication a human would take, helping to reduce the strain on his heart partly by reducing his blood pressure. He takes it in a slightly different way, however – his keepers give him his daily dose hidden inside a raw fish…
Christa: “So far so good, but we’ll have to wait and see. At the moment he is doing really well and is back to his normal – inquisitive – self!”
Yoyo was hatched on 27th May 2013, which means he celebrates his fifth birthday this Sunday. His parents are Corin and Blue, but had to be hand-reared by keepers, so he is especially confident around people. Living Coasts is home to 16 macaroni penguins; guests can mix with both the macaroni penguins and the African penguins when they visit. You can also arrange to feed penguins, adopt penguins and even dive with penguins.
Image courtesy of John Harvey, Abbotskerswell Veterinary Centre