The use of an injectable combination of tiletamine-zolazepam to immobilize King Penguins (Aptenodytes patagonicus) in the field was tested in non-incubating and incubating adults and in chicks. We also compared the behavioral and physiological response to this anesthetic agent according to the position used for immobilization (dorsal: lying on the back; ventral: lying on the belly) and following repeated administrations at one or several day intervals throughout a prolonged natural fast. A 5-mg/kg dosage administered intra-muscularly allowed an efficient immobilization of 97% of the adults for about one hour and after an induction time averaging 5 min. Birds kept in the dorsal position and without thermal insulation remained immobilized longer than those kept in the ventral position. Chicks were immobilized for 80 min after receiving a 4-mg/kg dosage. The anesthetized birds lost the pain, noise, touch and podal reflex but not the palpebral one and showed no major side effects. Penguins responded similarly to repeated injections and recovered without complications or adverse reactions. Five of eight incubating adults resumed incubation after having been anesthetized. We conclude that immobilization of King Penguins with tiletamine-zolazepam is safe and efficient, allowing routine health examination and interventions such as, for example, vein catheterization and adipose tissue biopsies.
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Vol. 73 • No. 3