Penguins display personality traits

TRACEY CHATTERTON
Last updated 05:00 02/11/2012
Penguin keeper Becs Cuthbert with rescued penguins
EVA BRADLEY/Fairfax NZ
SPECIAL TREATMENT: Penguin keeper Becs Cuthbert says each of the rescued penguins in the new enclosure at the National Aquarium in Napier has its own unique personality.

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They're little in name and little in stature but these rescued penguins are big on personality.

Visitors to the new Penguin Cove at the National Aquarium in Napier will be able to see the 10 little penguins - also known as little blue penguins - diving into their makeshift ocean and swimming like bullets, after the rescued birds were moved into their new home from the now-closed Marineland.

Penguin keeper Becs Cuthbert said the penguins had quickly "come out of their shell" in the cove, designed to replicate their natural beach habitat.

The penguins fish and feed in their swimming pool during the day, returning to the man-made sandy beach to burrow and sleep at night.

Although they looked similar, each bird had a distinct personality, Miss Cuthbert said.

Three-year-old Mr Mac, who was once an abandoned chick, was the most likely to press his nose against the glass to eye up visitors. Betty, 5, who was malnourished when rescued, was the chattiest, while blind Alfred, 10, shuffled along like a pensioner.

Alfred was rescued with one damaged and one perforated eye, most probably caused by a shag attack. He would have been picked off by a predator if left in the wild, but Miss Cuthbert expected him to live another five years.

Visitors to the new attraction will be able to meet the birds and learn about their declining numbers, National Aquarium of New Zealand manager Rob Yarrall said.

The native penguins live along much of New Zealand's coast. They spend their day at sea, coming ashore at night to sleep in burrows, caves and often under buildings.

The population is dying off as more people live close to the coast. Dog attacks pose the greatest threat.

Mr Yarrall encouraged dog owners to keep their pets on leads at the beach, and for anyone who found a little penguin in trouble to contact the Conservation Department.

The Penguin Cove opens to the public tomorrow.

LITTLE PENGUIN

Also known as the korora, the little penguin is the smallest of 17 penguin species

About 30cm tall, weighing 900-1100 grams

Each penguin eats 200g of fish a day.

The 10 at the National Aquarium go through 50kg of fish a month

They mate between July and February, usually for life

Can climb 300m above shore to find the perfect nest

Two eggs per nest

Eggs take 32 to 44 days to hatch

Life expectancy 10 years in the wild

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- The Dominion Post

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