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THE PROBLEM: Yellow-eyed penguins, also called hoiho, are an endangered species with a population that continues to decline dramatically. Foundation-funded researchers recently identified two novel viruses associated with two distinct diseases impacting chick health: respiratory distress syndrome and diphtheritic stomatitis. Respiratory distress syndrome is currently the leading cause of death among yellow-eyed penguin chicks. Diphtheritic stomatitis creates sores in the mouths of penguin chicks, making it difficult for them to eat, leading to starvation anddeath. Both are contributing to population declines in the species. 

THE PROJECT: In this follow-up study, researchers will determine the prevalence of the two viruses in the yellow-eyed penguin population. The team will also check if these viruses arepresent in other species or the penguins' environment, explore other potential causes of disease in these penguins, and, most importantly, confirm whether these viruses are the causes of the diseases noted in the chicks. 

POTENTIAL IMPACT: The team hopes this new information will provide critical evidence about what's causing these devastating diseases in yellow-eyed penguins. Their findings could provide the essential groundwork researchers need to develop new strategies to protect these endangered birds and hopefully prevent their extinction.

Study ID
Study Status
Grant amount awarded
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University of Otago, New Zealand
Study country
United States
Janelle Wierenga