Nesting penguins mauled to death in Porirua

The penguins in their nesting box.
Robyn Smith

The penguins in their nesting box.

The killing of two nesting penguins has devastated the people who tried to keep them safe.

The bloodied bodies of the little blue penguins, a protected species, were found on Sunday near the nesting box volunteers had made for them on the coastline of Whitireia Park, Porirua.

Robyn Smith, a member of the park's restoration group said, despite the boxes being in an on-leash dog walking area, it appeared a dog had knocked the lid off the box and mauled the birds, breaking their necks.

One of the nesting boxes volunteers made for penguins.
ROBYN SMITH

One of the nesting boxes volunteers made for penguins.

"They didn't stand a chance."

READ MORE:
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The birds were the first to take up residence in one of the 10 boxes built in 2012, an "absolutely gutted" Smith said.

"We were extremely excited one of our boxes were finally being used. We had given up hope that they would ever home any penguins."

The birds bred successfully on nearby Mana Island and volunteers wanted to provide a safe place on the mainland.

"We naively thought the little blues would be safe in the park in their boxes."

Department of Conservation operations manager Jack Mace said the penguins' deaths followed at least two other recent attacks around Wellington Harbour.

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"The greatest tragedy of these deaths is that the penguins had only just moved into the nest boxes."

Dogs were the greatest threat to the penguins species - the world's smallest - whose population is classified as 'At Risk, Declining' by DOC, Mace said.

"There are only 5,000 – 20,000 mature individuals nationally, and their numbers are predicted to be declining at a rate of 10-30 per cent."

Dog owners were required by law to ensure their dogs does not injure or cause distress to wildlife and other animals, he said.

"Even the most loving and well-trained dog is capable of killing a kororā​ [Little Blue Penguin] in seconds.  Dog owners need to be vigilant so we can safely share our cities with native wildlife.

Wellington Bird Rehabilitation Trust operator Craig Shepherd said penguins, and any flightless bird, were at risk from dogs.

"They're the proverbial sitting ducks and if it was a dog that killed them it will be killing others."

Greater Wellington Regional Council parks manager Amanda Cox said the park had signs reminding people to keep dogs under control.

"Given what has happened we are actively considering more signage – not just to alert dog owners to the potential presence of penguins, but also to build broader awareness so that visitors can both appreciate them and leave them undisturbed."

LITTLE BLUE WHO?

According to DOC, the little blue is the world's smallest penguin at a little more than 25cm tall and weighing around 1kg.

Adult birds came ashore between May and June to prepare nests and could travel up to 1.5km from the sea.

They traditionally nested in underground burrows, under vegetation, in crevices, between rocks, or in caves.

TIPS FOR DOG WALKERS:

  • Keep your dog under control at all times, even if it's off lead.
  • If you spot wildlife, or likely penguin nesting areas, put your dog on a lead and lead it away.
  • Warn other dog owners at the location.
  • Notify the council or DOC if you see a dog not under control, or wildlife being harassed by people or dogs.

 - Stuff

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