Baby penguin blues

HELEN MURDOCH
Last updated 13:00 05/12/2012
Baby penguin
HELEN MURDOCH/Fairfax NZ
BACK ON ITS FEET: Specialist veterinarian Mana Stratton, left, and senior Natureland keeper Vicki Long with the fledging little blue penguin which was found in Tahunanui.

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A specialist veterinarian wants people to be more aware of the vulnerability of penguins and other native birds.

A young little blue penguin found at the end of Parkers Rd, Tahunanui arrived at Mana Stratton's clinic yesterday after spending a few days in the care of keepers at Natureland Zoo.

"A lot of people think they are doing the right thing by feeding them," she said. "But if the birds are very sick, they need to get fluids first.

"We are very fortunate to have penguin breeding in the region. But people should keep their dogs on leashes, and supervise children and do not let them poke sticks down small holes at the beach - penguins might be breeding in them."

She said a young penguin she raised last year had been rescued by an adult from a group of children who were playing with it on the beach.

Another group of children were found playing "Harry Potter" games with a young injured morepork, which later died.

"Children will be children, and they don't know - it comes down to education."

Already, her Upper Moutere home-based clinic has two rescued owls, a fledgling white-faced heron, a baby weka, a young wood pigeon and two young penguins.

The number of seabirds and mammals she cared for often depended on the weather conditions, she said.

"If the sea gets really warm, fish will go deeper or further south, and adult penguins raising chicks have to do a marathon to get the food, while fledgling penguins will often lose too much weight before they are skilled at fishing, and get sick."

People who found young penguins should not try to feed them, and should instead contact Natureland or a vet clinic as soon as possible so they could be sent to her for care, she said.

Natureland Zoo operations manager Gail Sutton said it was often the first point of contact for people who found sick or stranded native animals, or who sought advice on the care of their own turtles, lizards or pet birds.

"We assess animals and decide if they can be handed on to Mana. We can get up to five calls a day."

The Nelson City Council is waiting for two invited parties to submit details on their proposals for the future of the Tahunanui zoo.

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- The Nelson Mail

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