bumblefoot, pododermatitis, penguins, environmental enrichment, behavioral husbandry, prevention


Animal Sciences | Biology


Jodee Hunt


Bumblefoot is a progressive and sometimes deadly infection that afflicts penguins living in human care. The most prominent cause of the disease is the extended amount of time that captive penguins spend standing in comparison to their pelagic and wild counterparts. For years, facilities have treated bumblefoot with surgery and antibiotics. However, this approach is palliative rather than preventative and has become problematic as bacteria develop stronger resistance to antibiotics. To address the behavioral abnormalities underlying the onset of bumblefoot, zoos and aquariums should utilize environmental enrichment. Many forms of environmental enrichment, including the relationship penguins have with their keepers and colored balls or rings, may prove effective at encouraging these aquatic birds to spend more time in the water. However, few studies have worked to determine the effectiveness of environmental enrichment as a preventative measure for bumblefoot. When used in addition to behavioral husbandry, or the training associated with achieving the voluntarily participation of penguins in their daily care, environmental enrichment may be the key to eradicating bumblefoot from the lives of captive penguins while also providing them with a more stimulating and healthier environment.