Ocean Park loses 85 fish to incurable koi herpes outbreak, annual report reveals

Koi react to the shocking revelation that 85 of their species were killed at Ocean Park over the past fiscal year by an outbreak of incurable koi herpes. Photo via Flickr/Mark Doliner.
Koi react to the shocking revelation that 85 of their species were killed at Ocean Park over the past fiscal year by an outbreak of incurable koi herpes. Photo via Flickr/Mark Doliner.

More than 600 animals died at Hong Kong’s Ocean Park last year, including some 85 koi that were infected by an outbreak of a highly contagious and untreatable strain of koi herpes, the park’s newly released annual report has revealed.

According to the 2018-2019 report, released yesterday, the park had 7,600 animals as of June 30, the end of its fiscal year, up from 7,239 the previous fiscal year. Among the 641 animals lost over the past fiscal year, 93 percent were fish, with most of the animals dying of natural causes, disease, or organ failure.

But it wasn’t all doom and gloom. The park also saw 326 births, including one Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphin, one Sichuan golden snub-nosed monkey, and 17 gentoo penguins. However, the vast majority of births were fish.

The most high-profile animal death at Ocean Park during the period covered by the report was Dougie, the 5-year-old southern koala who had to be put down in August of 2018 due to kidney failure. The report said the koala had an incurable disease called oxalate nephrosis, which is prevalent among koalas in Australia.

Screengrab via Ocean Park.
Screengrab via Ocean Park.

Other animals that died at the theme park include an Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphin that died of renal failure, a spotted seal that was euthanized because of worsening seizures, two penguins — one of which was euthanized due to a congenital heart disease, and another that died in an “accident” — and a “geriatric Chinese crocodile lizard.”

The report also noted 593 marine and freshwater fish deaths. While the vast majority of fish were from species with lifespans of five years or less — like goldfish, tetra, cardinalfish, butterflyfish and razorfish — the park reported that 85 koi either died or had to be euthanized after they were exposed to an untreatable infection called koi herpes virus.

A contagious disease that affects koi and other carp, koi herpes causes infected fish to develop white or gray lesions on the gills, hemorrhaging on the skin, and sunken eyes.

It also appears that Ocean Park has marked its fourth consecutive fiscal year in the red. According to the report, the deficit for the financial year ending June 30 was HK$557.3 million (about US$71.4 million), more than double the deficit of HK236.5 million (about US$30 million) for the previous year.

The park also said a “notable” rise in repairs and maintenance expenses were needed to repair the damage from Typhoon Mangkhut, which slammed the city in September last year.

The number of visitors to the park was also slightly lower for the 2018-2019 fiscal year, at 5.7 million, down from 5.8 million the previous year. However, as the annual report ends in June, it doesn’t reveal the full impact the city’s ongoing anti-government protests have had on visitor numbers

The SCMP reported last week that the number of tour group visitors to the park dropped by 56 per cent between July and October compared to the same period the year before, while individual non-local visitors dropped more than 60 per cent.

The more than 40-year-old Ocean Park enjoys a soft spot in the hearts of many Hongkongers, but it has also been a source of controversy in recent years, thanks in part to its shows in which trained dolphins perform tricks.

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