DOC devastated by death of penguins

Last updated 12:58 03/09/2014

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At least eight little blue penguins were killed by dogs near Little Kaiteriteri Beach over the weekend, prompting a call for public help to keep the birds safe.

Department of Conservation staff were devastated to find the dead birds, and are urging dog owners to be more vigilant.

"We're gutted," DOC conservation services manager for Motueka, Mark Townsend, said.

"The deaths were horrendous. There were puncture wounds and skull crushing, broken ribs and broken spines and major internal injuries."

Veterinarian Mana Stratton confirmed that the penguins' injuries were consistent with a dog attack.

"People don't like to think that their dog would attack wildlife but it is natural behaviour for dogs," Townsend said. "It serves as yet another reminder that people need to keep their dogs under close control at all times."

Ten little blue penguins were killed in similar circumstances in the same area a year ago.

Standing about 25 centimetres tall, and weighing just one kilogram, the little blue penguin is the world's smallest penguin and a protected species in New Zealand.

Townsend said it was likely the penguins killed were breeding birds, as adults began egg laying in August.

"They're right around our coastline, and they do interact with the public, but they're incredibly vulnerable and anything we can do to enhance their wellbeing has got to be a positive."

According to the Dog Control Act 1996, the owner of any dog that attacks protected wildlife is liable on conviction to a hefty fine or even imprisonment

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- The Nelson Mail


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