Handling penguin 'fatal move'
A little blue penguin has died after being picked up and handled by members of the public.
Department of Conservation Motueka biodiversity manager Bruce Vander Lee said DOC received reports on Tuesday of a penguin being seen under a bush at Little Kaiteriteri near a pipe which he thought it may have been using as a burrow.
‘‘At that point someone decided it needed help and moved it.’’
DOC Motuka then received a chain of phone calls about the penguin being handled.
The area office staff told callers that the bird should be left alone and placed back under the bush.
‘‘That evidently happened but not much later we had a call from a lady who said she had checked on the penguin and it looked very ill.
‘‘She was there when it died.’’
Mr Vander Lee said the penguin was checked over by wildlife vet Mana Stratton, who found it was an adult bird just coming out of its moult.
‘‘At that stage they are light in weight and usually dehydrated – it’s typical moult condition just before they are ready to return to the sea. They are also very sensitive to being disturbed at that stage.
‘‘The additional stress of being handled could have killed it,’’ he said.
The people who handled the penguin had not been located, he said.
He said penguins, particularly ones in moult, were easily stressed by even the approach of dogs or humans and he advised people stay at least 5 metres away from penguins they saw. Ideally dogs should be put on their leads when penguins were seen nearby.
Mr Vander Lee said New Zealanders’ love of wildlife was fantastic, but people had to leave wild animals alone and only summon help through the DOC hotline when they saw creatures with obvious injuries, he said.
‘‘Leave them alone. Animals are in their natural environment and do not need saving.
‘‘Penguins appear to struggle on land but they do not need help to get where they are going.
‘‘Seals always look sad, but unless they hang around for a couple of tide changes they are fine.’’