by Photo courtesy of Birch Aquarium at Scripps Institution of Oceanography

One of the Byster Family Little Blue Penguins from the Birch Aquarium at Scripps Institution of Oceonography at U.C. San Diego succumbed to a fungal infection this week. 

Magic was only 6 years old when he arrived at the Birch Aquarium in October of 2020 from Dallas World Aquarium. He suffered from aspergillosis, a fungal infection, for several weeks. Despite the tireless work of the Husbandry and Veterinary Teams, he was unable to fight off the infection, according to the Birch Aquarium. 

“He quickly became a favorite among our guests, as well as our staff for his fun and loving personality. He was a wonderful ambassador for his species, having awed and delighted thousands of guests. He will be missed,” The Birch Aquarium wrote in a statement. 

Aspergillus is a common airborne fungus. Birds are uniquely susceptible to aspergillosis due to their specialized respiratory systems. 

According to the Aquarium, birds may have a challenged immune system due to underlying health causes, or simply, associated with breeding, changes in weather, and their habitat, among other reasons. 

The Beyster Family Little Blue Penguins' habitat opened in July 2022 bringing the world’s smallest penguins to the West Coast for the first time. The habitat is also the first seabird exhibit in the history of the aquarium. The 2,900-square-foot exhibit provides the highest standard in penguin care while offering a fun and educational guest experience. 

Birch Aquarium opened its exhibit with a colony of 15 penguins that came from facilities in Australia and Dallas, Texas.

The habitat was created to protect the Little Blue Penguins as they face habitat loss and a dropping population due to climate change. 

In early November, five Little Blue penguins embarked on a 2,000-mile cross-country move to Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden as a part of an international Species Survival Plan that works to maintain the genetic diversity of certain species in Zoos and Aquariums. The remaining ten of those seabirds stayed in San Diego including, Magic, Cornelius, Reka, Nero, Katie, Persimmon, and Azulito.

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