Unusual mortality investigation kits assembled

Although staff at the Australian Antarctic Division had been considering the occurrence of a disease outbreak among Antarctica's wildlife we were unprepared when an unusual mortality event occurred among the Adélie penguins near Mawson. The event initially appeared to be caused by infectious disease however we were fortunate that it proved otherwise for we were ill prepared for such an occurrence. We had no contingency plan to activate, no protective clothing, no suitable sanitising agents and very little sampling equipment. However the Protocols for collection of samples for pathological analysis in the event of disease being suspected among monitored species of birds published by CCAMLR (1997) proved particularly useful in the collection and storage of samples.

We have now published a response plan for an unusual mortality event and have assembled investigation kits which are located at each of the Australian Antarctic stations and Macquarie Island and carried on ships used by Australia in Antarctica. The kits contain protective clothing, sanitising agents, media for the culture and transport of microorganisms and sampling and post mortem equipment. The container is a lockable waterproof plastic case (see photo above). Also included is a copy of the response plan and instructions on carrying out an investigation. A video will be added later which shows among other things how make up the culture media and carry out a post mortem on a bird.

It is planned that the kits will be updated every three years and the antibiotics replaced. New diagnostic kits will be added as they become available.

Knowles Kerry
Antarctic Marine Living Resources Program,