Reports of rain-soaked and miserable aquarium penguins pepped up by antidepressants are picking up interest around the Web, but it turns out birds are just on anti-fungal meds.
“They’re not on antidepressants, they’re on an anti-fungal treatment,” Todd German, senior aquarist at the Scarborough Sea Life Sanctuary in the U.K., which houses 10 Humboldt penguins, told NBC News.
“They’re not depressed, they’re not unhappy,” German said, adding that he found the penguins-on-antidepressants reports perplexing.
The staff are feeding the 10 penguins a low dose of Sporinox, which guards against an aspergillus infection of the lungs, which is common among birds.
Unusually heavy rains may be making the birds stressed (not depressed). “If we get stressed, our immune system dips,” German explained, and the penguins are similarly vulnerable.
An idential (and equally innacurate) news story circulated in 2011, after vandals broke into Scarborough Sea Life Center’s penguin enclosure and disturbed the birds, stressing them out. (This is easy to diagnose in penguins because “they’ve got very skittish movements. They fall on their bellies and run as fast as they can,” displays curator Lyndsey Crawford told BBC Radio 5 then.)
Reports from that year also suggested that the stressed penguins were being fed antidepressants. German said that it was the anti-fungals then, too.