Dogs savage precious blue penguin colony

DEIDRE MUSSEN
Last updated 05:00 28/06/2012
Reuben Lane

PREDATOR STRIKE: West Coast Blue Penguin Trust ranger Reuben Lane, left, and Scott Freeman of the Conservation Department with 15 penguins killed by dogs at Cape Foulwind on the West Coast.

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Roaming dogs have annihilated a blue penguin colony at Cape Foulwind on the West Coast.

West Coast Blue Penguin Trust ranger Reuben Lane said 15 dead penguins had been found since last Thursday near the lighthouse end of the coastal track.

A veterinarian confirmed dogs killed the first five, which had bite wounds to the head, neck and upper body.

Autopsies would be done to confirm the cause of death.

After hearing about six deaths last week, Lane visited the colony on Tuesday and was shocked to find another eight victims. One more was found yesterday.

"There's something pathetic and tragic about these little birds lying there just dead. These penguins have a charismatic innocence about them. It's really sad," he said.

"I've been predator trapping out there for five years. It's going to take years and years to replace these birds."

He found dog prints but no sign of humans around the dead birds and believed one or two dogs were responsible, probably on a killing spree one night last week.

"People forget dogs are large predators. Just because it sits next to your fire and eats dog biscuits doesn't mean it isn't like that."

He said it was likely the entire colony had been wiped out.

The site was only a kilometre from a proposed free public viewing area, which the trust had spent a year working on. The area would allow people to watch penguins returning to their burrows at dusk.

Trust chairwoman Kerry-Jayne Wilson said she was "absolutely devastated" by the deaths. "We have put a lot of our time, resources and money in to build up the population at Cape Foulwind and this has set us back years."

The Conservation Department's Buller acting biodiversity programme manager, Scott Freeman, said efforts to find the dogs had been unsuccessful.

Under the Dog Control Act, the owner of a dog that attacks or kills wildlife can be fined up to $3000 and the dog can be destroyed.

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