Penguin mauled by dog in Christchurch

Yellow-eyed penguin injured in mauling

RACHEL YOUNG
Last updated 13:23 10/05/2012
Penguin
INJURED: Pauline Conayne, wildlife technician at the Wildlife Health Centre at Massey University tends to the injured yellow-eyed penguin.

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A young yellow-eyed penguin mauled by a dog on a Christchurch beach has prompted calls for more responsible dog ownership.

A family stood guard around a yellow-eyed penguin on Southshore Beach last month to stop unattended dogs getting closer to it until Department of Conservation (DOC) ranger Anita Spencer arrived.

Spencer said the family were "heroes" for looking after it for more than 40 minutes.

The penguin was taken to the Hornby Veterinary Centre and then sent to the Wildlife Health Centre at Massey University for an operation.

The vet and Spencer agreed it had been attacked by a dog.

"[It was] most likely picked up by its back leg and shaken. It had injuries on its back as well," Spencer said.

The penguin, named Titahi, has had its broken leg pinned and faces several months of rehabilitation before it can be released back into the wild.

The area where the penguin was found is prohibited to dogs under Christchurch City Council bylaws, but they are allowed in the nearby dunes under effective voice control or on a lead. 

Small numbers of yellow-eyed penguins nest on Banks Peninsula, where DOC, along with the city council, the Banks Peninsula Conservation Trust and interested parties, are trapping predators.

Spencer said penguins were at their most vulnerable when they were young as they explored the wild, fed and wandered around before they settled to breed.

"To have this juvenile mauled by a dog on its first journey into the world is really disappointing and completely avoidable," she said.

Council animal-control team leader Mark Vincent said dog owners must keep their pets on leads, especially in protected areas where vulnerable wildlife was concentrated.

Dogs were especially dangerous to flightless birds, he said.

"Even when dogs don't catch the birds, they're chasing. They can still cause stress, which can lead birds to desert their eggs and chicks or abandon an area altogether."

He said it was a serious offence for a dog to harass protected wildlife, and dog owners could face imprisonment or fines of up to $20,000 if an animal was killed.

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- The Press

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