22 January 2011

"Happy" little penguin makes Steamer Basin its home

NEW ZEALAND - A little penguin has taken up residence in Dunedin's Steamer Basin and seems to be happily defying the norms of the behaviour of its species.

Little penguins generally do not come ashore before dusk and will usually leave land before dawn, spending their day foraging out at sea. But this one hangs out at the wharf during the day, and even takes fish from the local fishermen.

Its sleeping habits are a puzzle too. Little penguins usually spend the night nesting in burrows, but Department of Conservation (DOC) marine manager Jim Fyfe told the Otago Daily Times, "We're not sure where this one goes. There are lots of places under the wharves where it could go to hop out of the water. That may be where it goes at night."

The penguin's presence at the wharf seems to have divided the locals; some fishermen said it had been hooked a couple of times and should be moved on, while others enjoyed it being there and called it a "local harbour identity".

Mr Fyfe believed the penguin had made Steamer Basin its home because the food supply was good. He said the fishermen shouldn't feed the penguin as he hoped it would return to its natural habitat.

DOC had been notified about the penguin by concerned members of the public who said that some fishermen were attempting to catch it in their nets. But Mr Fyfe said that the penguin seemed quite happy and was not causing any problems, so DOC would continue to monitor the situation rather than relocate the penguin.

"If it proves to be an ongoing problem, we'll consider moving it, but it could come straight back," he said.

And why wouldn't it? With a good food supply, a secret hidey-hole to sleep in and status as a local celebrity, I would probably come back too.

Little blue penguin attracted to appealing menu at wharf by John Lewis and Rebecca Fox, 14 January 2011, Otago Daily Times
Little penguin, Lloyd Spencer Davis, PenguinWorld

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