Dog leashes vital as penguins prove too great a temptation

18:57, Jan 16 2014

A penguin savaged by a dog on a New Plymouth beach has prompted wildlife wardens to call for owners to keep their pets on a leash.

The little blue penguin is fighting for its life after being found by a boy on Back Beach.

At this time of year little blue penguins can be found on just about every beach along the Taranaki coast, DOC Taranaki ranger Bryan Williams said.

Penguins had a "peculiar" smell and even the best trained dogs would have a go at them, he said.

"At this time of year they are moulting which makes it difficult for the penguins because they just sort of hang around.

"They don't like to get wet, because they are replacing their feathers. And soon we'll have a lot of juvenile birds around," he said.

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People needed to keep their dogs on a lead, he said.

"I know for a lot of people that's hard, but you can buy those flexible leads that let the dog have a bit of a run. At least you've got control of it. But just to go down on the beach at the moment and let your dog go loose is not very good for the wildlife."

A juvenile male penguin was sent to Massey University's Wildbase Hospital after an attack left him struggling to stand, with gashes on its right flank, punctured air sacs and water trapped in its lungs.

Wildlife veterinarian Dr Serena Finlayson said it was initially feared the little blue had broken bones.

However an X-ray revealed only an abrasion on its foot, wounds above its right thigh, a damaged wing and an infection, caused by sand and muck, reaching to its femur.

"When it arrived here, it couldn't walk on its leg and it was dragging it along."

The penguin won't be able to return to beachside living until its feathers grow back and it is waterproof, which is anticipated to be weeks away. If anyone finds an injured penguin they should call DOC.

Taranaki Daily News