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Tuesday, December 15, 2015

More than just seal rescues

Mystic Aquarium Veterinarians Provide Successful Treatment to African Penguin with Cancer

Mystic, CT: Mystic Aquarium is home to 31 African penguins. The colony plays a key role in the preservation of this endangered species. 

Veterinarians, researchers and trainers are actively engaged in critical conservation research to understand how African penguins can better sustain environmental challenges.

The population of the African penguin has declined a staggering 70% in the last 10 years alone. Currently, there are less than 50,000 penguins remaining in the wild. Effective conservation efforts are imperative. 

Starting with just 400 penguins in 1991, today there are more than 1,100 healthy African penguins thriving in accredited zoos and aquariums, including one of the largest colonies in the nation at Mystic Aquarium.

And, while all 31 have a survival story; none may be as compelling as the story of Grey/Silver.

Earlier this year, one of Mystic Aquarium’s African penguins, Grey/Silver, was diagnosed with malignant melanoma – a commonly reported type of cancer found in the species. 

However, following a strict treatment plan that included radiation treatments followed by an anti-cancer vaccine, the Aquarium veterinary team is happy to report that Grey/Silver is doing just fine.

“He’s continuing to do very well,” reported Dr. Allison Tuttle. “There are no visible signs of tumor on his beak.”

As part of a routine check-up performed regularly by the Aquarium’s penguin staff, Grey/Silver’s tumor was found on the side of his beak. Additional tests confirmed the spot was cancerous.

Once the diagnosis was confirmed, Grey/Silver was given medication in an effort to prevent the spread of the melanoma. Additional treatment was provided at the Foster Hospital for Small Animals at Tufts University which included four weekly radiation treatments localized to his affected beak area.

Along with the radiation treatment, Grey/Silver also began a regimen of anti-melanoma vaccinations. Originally developed for use on dogs with cancer, Grey/Silver may be the first penguin to receive this vaccine. If Grey/Silver remains in remission, the Aquarium’s veterinary and research team looks forward to sharing their success with others in the field.


Mystic Aquarium’s Research and Veterinary Services team is at the forefront of engaging global efforts toward saving the African penguin. Mystic Aquarium also participates in the ‘African Penguin Species Survival Plan’—a cooperative animal management program that helps to ensure the long-term survival of the species in accredited zoos and aquariums.