Employees at the Calgary Zoo made a horrifying discovery Thursday morning: seven dead Humboldt penguins, all apparently drowned in a 3-feet-deep pool. "Everybody here is pretty shaken up by it," animal care director Jamie Dorgan tells CBC News. The penguins were being kept in a holding area this week while their habitat at the Canadian zoo was under renovation, the Guardian reports. According to the New York Daily News, it's unclear what happened to the penguins, who were between 7 and 8 months old and free of infections. “It’s a very odd situation, very odd circumstances, and nothing we’ve ever encountered before,” Dorgan tells the Guardian.
A biology professor says penguins drowning is "a pretty rare event," but the zoo believes the animals—22 in all—may have been spooked by something during the night, panicked, and tried to jump into the pool at once, causing seven to drown. The remaining 15 appear to be fine, though they are being kept away from the pools at night as a precaution. The Calgary Zoo has had its share of animal mishaps. In February, an otter drowned after getting tangled in a pair of pants given to it as a present by a zookeeper. Over the past eight years, a capybara was crushed by a hydraulic door, a gorilla got a hold of a knife, 41 stingrays died, and a group of gorillas raided a kitchen. “We have humans looking after animals and just like humans doing anything, mistakes are going to happen,” Dorgan says. (Read more penguins stories.)