One-flipper penguin survives storm

Photos and video: Rosalie Liddle Crawford.

Click the image above to watch the video

A little blue penguin has been found with only one flipper.

The young adult was brought into Tauranga’s ARRC Trust by the Western Bay Wildlife Trust after being found injured.

“His flipper is broken off at the humerus,” says ARRC Trust Director and Veterinarian Dr Liza Schneider. “And he’s also missing one and a half toes. These injuries would likely be due to a bite of some kind. Either a shark or a dog, or if he was really unlucky he could have got caught in a boat’s propellers.

Staff at the ARRC Trust are amazed that the bird is still in good condition, able to walk and feeding enthusiastically.

“The incredible thing is that these injuries are at least a couple of weeks old. This little guy is so bright and he’s got decent body condition. And he’s just come through a moult.”

Little blue penguins tend to stay on land and not feed during moulting. They’ve usually already put on more body condition ahead of the moult, and rely on their reserves to get them through that period.

“ARRC frequently tends to these injured birds and they often need to be humanely euthanized due to their extensive injuries,” says Liza. “The tenacity and resilience of this bird is just unbelievable. Usually with this type of injury it would be impossible for them to survive in the wild. He can’t swim with one flipper. The only hope for this guy would be in a captive situation.”

Dr Liza Schneider with the little blue penguin with one flipper at The ARRC Trust

“We’re had lots of penguins coming through. The bad weather has made a whole lot of trouble out there. Baby birds get blown out of the nests and the rough seas have created havoc for seabirds.”

ARRC Trust is looking for a home for the penguin in a NZ zoo, as it would be unable to survive back in its natural environment.

“We hope that one day there will be a facility in Tauranga to provide a home for a bird such as this,” says Liza, “as it would serve as a wonderful educational opportunity to encourage people to respect and revere our natural heritage.”

The little blue penguin is a NZ native bird with their population at risk of declining, particularly in areas where they are under threat from predators such as dogs, cats, ferrets and stoats. The smallest of the world’s penguins, they have found their home on Mauao, Moturiki Island and Motuotau Island. Many locals and visitors are surprised to hear there are so many nesting locally in burrows close to the Mount Main beach.

Locally the little blue penguin population was unknown until the Rena Oil Spill crisis. Three hundred and fifty oiled penguins – mostly from Mauao, Moturiki and Motuotau, were caught, cleaned and released back into their original environment after the rocks were cleared of oil. It was during this time that it was realised that the local population was much larger than previously imagined. An estimated 800 nest on Mauao, 200 on Moturiki and 400 on Motuotau.

Little blue penguins moult between November and March, usually for about two weeks. During this time, they will remain on land as their feathers change. Western Bay Wildlife Trust and ARRC Wildlife Trust work together to help increase awareness in the Western Bay of Plenty community about the penguins and other local wildlife.

The beach areas close to the nesting sites are kept clear of dogs, as their scent may increase anxiety amongst the penguins. Pilot Bay, all of Mauao, Mount Main beach and Moturiki Island are all dog-free zones.

Little blue penguins however can come ashore at any site along the coastal area, so it is very important for people to keep their dogs on leads to ensure that they don’t attack penguins or destroy their nests. The storm is a particular risk time as birds can become very exhausted dealing with the climatic conditions.

Western Bay Wildlife Trust have posted to their Facebook page this week the following:

“MESSAGE TO DOG OWNERS and BEACH WALKERS: Please be aware that lots of exhausted penguins and other birds are washing up on our beach at the moment due to this storm. If there is no sign of injury please leave them alone as they just need a rest. PLEASE Please please please keep dogs away from the beach, or on a lead, for the next 48 hours to allow these birds time to rest and gain their energy back. They cannot fly away or defend themselves at this time. Thank you so much for your cooperation.”

Anyone coming across a penguin with an injury is asked to phone 0800 SICK PENGUIN (0800 742 573) immediately.

X-rays can be taken of little blue penguins and other wildllife at the ARRC Trust.

1 Comment

Thank you Liza

Posted on 07-01-2018 21:41 | By overit

You do fabulous work.

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