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Establishment of baseline haematology and biochemistry parameters in wild adult African penguins (Spheniscus demersus)

Nola J. Parsons, Adam M. Schaefer, Stephen D. van der Spuy, Tertius A. Gous

Journal of the South African Veterinary Association; Vol 86, No 1 (2015), 8 pages. doi: 10.4102/jsava.v86i1.1198

Submitted: 17 June 2014
Published:  25 March 2015


There are few publications on the clinical haematology and biochemistry of African penguins (Spheniscus demersus) and these are based on captive populations. Baseline haematology and serum biochemistry parameters were analysed from 108 blood samples from wild, adult African penguins. Samples were collected from the breeding range of the African penguin in South Africa and the results were compared between breeding region and sex. The haematological parameters that were measured were: haematocrit, haemoglobin, red cell count and white cell count. The biochemical parameters that were measured were: sodium, potassium, chloride, calcium, inorganic phosphate, creatinine, cholesterol, serum glucose, uric acid, bile acid, total serum protein, albumin, aspartate transaminase and creatine kinase. All samples were serologically negative for selected avian diseases and no blood parasites were detected. No haemolysis was present in any of the analysed samples. Male African penguins were larger and heavier than females, with higher haematocrit, haemoglobin and red cell count values, but lower calcium and phosphate values. African penguins in the Eastern Cape were heavier than those in the Western Cape, with lower white cell count and globulin values and a higher albumin/globulin ratio, possibly indicating that birds are in a poorer condition in the Western Cape. Results were also compared between multiple penguin species and with African penguins in captivity. These values for healthy, wild, adult penguins can be used for future health and disease assessments.

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Author affiliations

Nola J. Parsons, Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds (SANCCOB), South Africa
Adam M. Schaefer, Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institution, Florida Atlantic University, United States
Stephen D. van der Spuy, Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds (SANCCOB), South Africa
Tertius A. Gous, Consultant Specialist Veterinary Pathologist, Independent consultant, South Africa


penguin; haematology; biochemistry; health assessment


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1. Health evaluation of African penguins (Spheniscus demersus) in southern Africa
Nola J. Parsons, Tertius A. Gous, Adam M. Schaefer, Ralph E.T. Vanstreels
Onderstepoort J Vet Res  vol: 83  issue: 1  year: 2016  
doi: 10.4102/ojvr.v83i1.1147

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ISSN: 1019-9128 (print) | ISSN: 2224-9435 (online)

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